Ban or No Ban?

Seals clubbed and left to choke to death on their own blood - approved by Canadian Inuit

People were left scratching their heads in bewilderment today as to whether or not the EU seal product trade ban would come into effect on Friday, August 20th.  Earlier today Prime Minister Stephen Harper blasted the impending EU ban – which will prohibit trade in seal products from all nations – as being discriminatory against Canadian sealers who he described as “hardworking people of modest means.”   A few hours later Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced the EU seal product trade ban had been suspended until further notice after Inuit leaders questioned the legality of the ban.  Further confusion ensued when conflicting reports were issued by the European Commission stating the trade ban would indeed pass into law on Friday and Canadian media outlets stating the ban had been suspended at the last minute.


Brutality Against Canada’s Baby Seals – Approved by Canadian Inuit

Baby seals savagely bludgeoned to death for their fur, their carcasses left to rot - approved by Canadian Inuit

One thing, however, is no longer in doubt — the Inuit of Canada support and defend the abject cruelty of the Atlantic Canadian commercial seal hunt.  Canadian Inuit have stated in the past they stand in solidarity with eastern sealers and had launched a challenge against the EU seal product ban earlier this year.  Inuit have complained that, although the ban specifically exempts products from traditional Inuit hunts, it would devastate their economy and would prevent them from hunting seals.


Inuit Hunt – Subsistence or Commercial?

Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of Humane Society International/Canada questioned the logic and motives of the Inuit challenge to the EU seal product ban:

“The EU ban on seal product trade eliminates EU trade in products of inherently inhumane commercial seal hunts, but specifically exempts products from traditional Inuit hunts.

If the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is now claiming the prohibition will negatively impact their seal hunt, they are directly inferring that their hunt is conducted for commercial, rather than traditional subsistence, purposes.”

Very good points.  I’d be most interested to hear National Inuit leader and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Mary Simon’s response to this. 


Inuit Whored Out by Government for Benefit of Atlantic sealers


Seal pups herded together and bludgeoned to death with wooden bats - Approved by Canadian Inuit

In 2006 Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society reported that a few years previously Brian Roberts, senior advisor to the Canadian Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, had addressed a conference of whalers in Iceland and urged the exploitation of native people to defend commercial whaling:

In his address, Roberts outlined specific strategies that commercial whalers can use to undermine anti-whaling campaigns, drawing from the heated debates on sealing and the fur industry in Canada.

“The first step was to neutralize the appeal of the animal protection lobby,” Roberts said. “To accomplish this it was necessary to mount an equally emotionally powerful counter-appeal. This counter-appeal was based on the survival needs of aboriginal communities which depended upon the continuing taking of fur-bearing animals.”

Roberts said that this lesson would be useful to the whalers in “your own efforts to deal with a poorly informed and emotional public, and with politicians seeking electoral approval from such publics.”

In other words, Roberts speaking on behalf of the government of Canada was openly saying that Native people should be used as politically-correct and emotional arguments to win favor for commercial whaling.  


Conscious pups gaffed through the face and hurled through the air - Approved by Canadian Inuit

Interesting, no?  Wait, it gets even more interesting.  In a 2001 memo from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs regarding maneuvoring seal products past the U.S. seal product trade ban implemented in 1972, it was recommended the Canadian government ”play the Nunavut Inuit card as leverage to open the door to obtaining a waiver and have the east coast sealers follow.”  Sneaky.

And for some strange reason, the Inuit have been more than happy to be used as pawns in the Canadian government’s defence of the inherently cruel and unprofitable slaughter.  Their eagerness to be whored out to the world for the benefit of Atlantic Canadian sealers is backfiring – they are rapidly losing the support of their fellow-Canadians.  When I first became involved in this issue, people told me they supported the Inuit subsistence hunt.   Today, however, I’m hearing a completely different story.  Many people have expressed to me their disgust with the Inuit’s alliance with the brutal Atlantic sealers and have advised they have withdrawn their support for subsistence hunting.


Delaying the Inevitable


Baby seals skinned alive - approved by Canadian Inuit

Realistically, sealing advocates have not prevented the trade ban on seal products; they have simply delayed the inevitable. 

Says HSI Canada’s Rebecca Aldworth:  “This suspension is temporary in nature and, while affording time for the applicants to present their case before the European Court of Justice, does nothing to prevent the EU ban from coming into force prior to the 2011 commercial seal hunt.“  Sheryl Fink, senior researcher with International Fund for Animal Welfare, agrees the suspension is a minor delay and confirms the EU made the right decision based on solid facts of the seal slaughter.  She also points out the European Commission voted to implement the ban in response to the wishes of its own citizens, and believes the Canadian government should show the same respect for the wishes of its citizens.  “I would hope that the Canadian government will listen to its citizens, who predominantly do not want to see a commercial seal hunt continued in this country.

Polling consistently shows the majority of Canadians are opposed to the commercial seal slaughter and object to their tax dollars being used to subsidize and defend it both at home and abroad.  Yet every year the Canadian government lavishes millions of our tax dollars upon the inherently cruel, unsustainable and unprofitable industry.  Add to that financial burden the further cost of expensive WTO and joint Inuit/Atlantic sealer challenges, and one is left once again scratching one’s head in bewilderment, wondering why on earth the government of Canada is pouring BILLIONS of dollars into an industry that is economically negligible.  A licence buyout would be markedly cheaper and a long-lasting solution, so why this stubborn determination to waste more of our taxes on a losing battle?  It’s just too bad the Canadian government didn’t see fit to lavish a fraction of that money on the homeless and poverty-stricken across Canada.  But clearly Atlantic sealers/fishers’ votes are far more important than the Great Unwashed Masses across this country.

Coyote pups - more victims of the NDP govt's stupidity

The latest coyote-human encounter in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park has resparked the debate surrounding the Nova Scotia government’s coyote cull, planned to begin on October 15th under the guise of a “pelt incentive.”

As frightening as the experience must have been for the teenager involved, it was hardly the “vicious coyote attack”  the Chronicle Herald melodramatically termed it.  A 16-year old who was sleeping on the ground outside her parents’ tent, awoke to see a coyote standing over her.  The coyote ran away when she screamed and swatted it.   The coyote had bitten her scalp twice and stitches were required.

To me, it didn’t read as a “vicious attack.”  It read more like a case of a coyote, accustomed to finding scraps of food on the ground of a campsite, mistaking this girl’s head sticking out of the sleeping bag for food and giving a couple of experimental bites.  That’s not to diminish in any way the fear and pain she must have felt.  But vicious attack?  No. 

Of course the usual panicked cries of “they’ve got to be stopped before they eat my child!” could be heard immediately, and all coyotes are being branded vicious killers.  The truth is, if the finger of blame is to be pointed at anyone, it should not be pointed at the coyotes – it should be pointed squarely at the provincial government.

Rednecks with traps will be paid $20 by NS taxpayers to kill coyotes

When Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources Minister John MacDonell announced the coyote bounty in April, an “enhanced community public education program” was promised.  I called DNR this morning and spoke with the Executive Director of DNR.  She advised me the “enhanced community education program” had already been implemented and it consisted, for the most part, of a one-page large-print PDF document entitled Living with Coyotes in Nova Scotia uploaded to the DNR website and distributed to a few schools and other institutions.  The Executive Director said experts had also visited schools and would provide me with more information.

So to assuage the fears of the Great Unwashed Masses, the government offers a single page with a few general tips on living with coyotes in Nova Scotia.  “Enhanced community education program” to me would involve public service announcements on radio and television, billboards, public seminars, etc.  Not a one-page document put up on a website in the hopes someone will find it.  Of course, the government knows it needn’t put much energy into educating people how to live in harmony with coyotes because its top priority is to kill all the coyotes.

Public education is key if humans are to understand their behaviour shapes the behaviour of coyotes and learn to live in harmony with them.  This was glaringly apparent this morning during Rick Howe’s call-in radio show.  One caller told listeners coyotes showed up while he and his friends sat around a bonfire, and when one of his friends panicked and ran to the house, they were shocked that the coyote chased her.  Experts warn people that running from a coyote will trigger a predator response.  Another caller complained that neighbourhood cats were disappearing.  Experts warn people not to leave small pets unattended as they are viewed as an easy meal by coyotes in the absence of other prey.  Had the NS Department of Natural Resources made a serious effort to educate the public about living with coyotes, it is unlikely the Nova Scotian parents of the 16-year old would have allowed their daughter to sleep in the open on the ground in a park known to have coyotes roaming.  It is unlikely the campers on the lot before them would have left food lying around to attract coyotes.  If John MacDonell had done his job properly, this incident need not have occurred.  To anyone who might think it’s harsh to blame the Minister, reflect on this — how harsh is it, then, to condemn to death thousands of coyotes for the actions of a few?  That’s harsh.  Even harsher when one considers it is human habituation of wildlife that has led to this, and MacDonell and his staff know it.

Nigel Douglas, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association says mass killings are bound to happen when bounties are offered. "It's easy to point the fingers at wolves or coyotes or whatever for all of your problems, but when it comes down to it, it seems some people just like killing." Credit: CBC

Minister MacDonell said in April he didn’t care how many coyotes trappers killed.  He also said he wouldn’t mind if trappers eliminated half of the province’s estimated 8,000 coyotes by next spring.  Clearly he doesn’t understand the concept of compensatory reproduction.

And therein lies the rub.  Science indicates coyote culls don’t work because coyotes will reproduce at a faster rate to compensate for reduced numbers.  MacDonell knows culls don’t work.  That why, shortly before the government’s announcement, any documentation stating culls aren’t effective was removed from the DNR website.  And that’s why the government is not calling it a cull (or bounty, for that matter), but rather giving it the fancy name ‘pelt incentive for professional trappers’.  MacDonell claimed the “pelt incentive” “is a way to change coyote behaviour and reduces a problem wildlife population.“  Indiscrimate trapping for $20 a pelt is going to reduce the problem coyotes?  Doubtful.  Coyotes innocent of any offence will be trapped and killed.  Adult females will be killed, leaving pups behind to starve to death.  And what’s that about reducing a problem wildlife population?  That, my friend, is a cull.  You can dress it up as fancy as you like, but it is still a CULL.

Parks Canada has indicated it will not implement a cull in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  Derek Quann, the park’s resource conservation manager, says a cull would not be appropriate or effective, saying park staff has effectively used loud air horns and pepper spray to deter coyotes from getting too familiar with visitors in the park.

I asked the Executive Director of DNR if the provincial Natural Resources Department had a response for Parks Canada statement and whether it would make them rethink the planned cull.  I was told I had to understand it wasn’t a cull.  It was an “incentive program for professional trappers.”  I told her politely that I appreciate it’s the official party policy that it’s an “incentive” and I understand that as a provincial government employee she was required to refer to it as an “incentive” but everybody knows it’s a cull.  And everybody knows culls don’t work.  Except for the Minister of Natural Resources.   But then, he also believes the distressed calls of a trapped coyote will send a warning message to other coyotes to stay out of that area.  Interesting, considering hunters use the sound of distressed coyotes to attact other coyotes.

John MacDonell, NS Minister of Wildlife Extermination (Photo: ERIC WYNNE / CH)

Ignoring science and commonsense the government of Nova Scotia stubbornly insists the cull bounty incentive will go ahead as planned.  On October 15th trappers will be paid $20 per kill and will be free to sell the pelt to any buyers.  And guess where the money is coming from to pay the trappers?  You guessed it – taxpayers.  In the spring our tax dollars are being used to subsidize the brutal slaughter of baby seals by commercial sealers in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and in the autumn our tax dollars will subsidize the brutal slaughter of coyotes by commercial trappers.  Once again Darrell Dexter’s NDP government has sold our wildlife to the highest bidder.

Why?  Some believe MacDonell is a good guy simply wanting to reassure the panicked masses and to appear decisive and strong, while others suggest he is pandering to the Trappers’ Association of Nova Scotia while wearing his Minister of Natural Resources hat.  Still others accuse him of colluding with influential livestock farmers while wearing his Minister of Agriculture hat.  His theories of how/why this cull bounty incentive are full of conflicts and contradictions which makes it apparent there is more involved here than a sincere desire to keep the Great Unwashed Masses safe.

The truth of the matter remains that WE have caused this problem; not the coyotes.  Through our own actions and habits, we are inviting coyotes into our neighbourhoods, yet panicking when they accept our invitation.  We need to understand how our behaviour affects and attracts coyotes and we need to alter our behaviour to re-establish a mutual respect between humans and wildlife.  This is the ONLY solution that will work long-term.  But it’s not the solution that’s going to put taxpayers’ money into the pockets of members of the Trappers’ Association of Nova Scotia, is it?