DFO has long denied the Canadian government subsidizes the commercial seal hunt.  On its webpage Canadian Seal Harvest – Myths and Realities it makes the following claim:

DFO does not subsidize the seal harvest. Sealing is an economically viable industry. Some subsidies were provided prior to 2001 for market and product development, including a meat subsidy, to encourage full use of the seal.

$100,000 govt subsidy to Canadian Seal Marketing Group to attend trade shows in China

So government says no subsidies have been given to the sealing industry since 2001.  And yet a recent review of grants and contributions over $25,000 reported on the website of federally-run ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) revealed two sizeable contributions made to the sealing industry as recently as 2010. 

The first subsidy was a $100,000 contribution made by the federal government on May 10, 2010 awarded to Canadian Seal Marketing Group of Little Catalina, Newfoundland.  The contribution was to “attend trade shows in Russia and China.”   The Canadian Seal Marketing Group is an organization comprised of GC Rieber Carino Ltd., a Canadian company located in Dildo, Newfoundland; NuTan Furs Inc. of Catalina, Newfoundland; and Ta Ma Su Seal Products Inc. of Quebec.

$50,000 govt subsidy to Sealer's Cooperative to develop business plan to flog "value-added" dead baby seals

The second subsidy was a $50,000 contribution made on September 11, 2010 to Northeast Coast Sealer’s Cooperative Society, Limited of Fleur de Lys, Newfoundland, to “develop comprehensive plan for value-added seal products.” 

The Northeast Coast Sealer’s Cooperative Society is no stranger to financial assistance from ACOA, as it participated in the ACOA-led Atlantic Canada “seafood and aquaculture” trade mission to China in 2007.

Between 1995 and 2000 the government of Canada and Newfoundland provided $20 million in subsidies to the sealing industry, including direct payments to sealers.

And of course each year there are subsidies in the form of services and infrastructure - Spotter planes and helicopters are used to locate seal pups and radio coordinates to sealers (Interestingly, DFO refuses to provide those coordinates to licensed observers).  Coast Guard icebreakers are used to forge paths to the seal pups for sealers.  One icebreaker – the Amundsen – reportedly costs $50,000 per day to operate in winter months.  Vessels and helicopters are also used to rescue sealers and their vessels in distress.  On the administrative side, DFO staff processes observation permit applications and interviews each applicant.

Photo: HSUS/Gray Mitchell

Our tax dollars have also paid for expensive international trips for politicians, sealers and Inuit representatives to lobby against the EU seal product ban.  In 2007 the Canadian government organized a tour by European journalists to Newfoundland & Labrador and the Magdalen Islands.  The tour allowed journalists to meet with sealers, sealing industry bullies and politicians to give what the Canadian government claimed to be the truth about the seal harvest.  Interestingly, the journalists were not invited to witness the actual “harvest” as it took place. 

So many subsidies, so little time to detail them all…In April of 2008 the Financial Post published an article penned by Toronto lawyer/journalist Murray Teitel setting out the vast sums of money the Canadian government lavishes on this crumbling industry.  The article, entitled The millions Ottawa spends subsidizing the seal hunt, is definitely worth a read.

Polling consistently shows Canadians oppose the annual slaughter, yet millions of our tax dollars are lavished on the failing industry each year.  It would actually cost less to implement a licence buyback program!  A recent poll conducted with Newfoundland sealers concluded 50% of sealers holding an opinion were interested in a licence buyout.

Photo: ACASC/Bridget Curran

I recently asked Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff whether the Liberal Party of Canada would be willing to help Atlantic Canadian sealers should they decide to lobby the government for a buyout.  He stated that if sealers wanted a licence buyout, of course the Liberal Party of Canada would help them get it.  This was the first time Ignatieff has formally stated he would assist sealers with a licence buyout, and is a promising sign.

The Canadian commercial seal hunt is an unprofitable venture, a drain on Canadian taxpayers and an embarrassment to us all internationally.  It’s time to stop throwing good money after bad and shut it down for good.

Canada’s Trade Minister Stockwell Day and Fisheries Minister Gail Shea are at it again – resorting to schoolyard bully tactics, threatening the EU with WTO reprisals should it follow-through with an EU-wide seal product ban.

“Should the EU choose to adopt a seal products trade ban that does not contain an acceptable derogation for humanely harvested seal products, Canada will defend its rights and interests under the relevant World Trade Organization agreements,” the Ministers declared in a statement released today.

As both Ministers Day and Shea are fully aware, Canada’s seal slaughter is neither “humane” nor “sustainable.” There is ample present-day evidence of the extreme and revolting cruelty inherent in the commercial seal kill. Therefore, Canadian seal products would never be eligible for the derogration for “humanely harvested” products they are demanding. The Ministers are fooling no one with their political posturing.

Ministers Day and Shea while speaking of “Canada” and “its rights and interests” need to be reminded that the majority of Canadians oppose the commercial seal kill and object to their tax dollars being used to subsidize the annual atrocity and to defend it both at home and abroad. Further, Canadians recognize the right of other nations to ban trade in products they find objectionable and support the EU-wide seal product ban.

Canadians are fed up with their tax dollars being used to prop up an inherently cruel and unprofitable industry. It is past time the Canadian government respect the wishes of Canadians. Rather than spending yet MORE of our hard-earned tax dollars on further bullyboy tactics, the Canadian government must abolish the commercial seal kill and implement a license buyback program.

I urge everyone to write to Trade Minister Stockwell Day (DayS@parl.gc.ca) and Fisheries Minister Gail Shea (min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca), with a copy to Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pm@pm.gc.ca). You might also want to send a copy to your MP. You can find the email address of your MP HERE.

Photo PETA

Photo PETA

Mass hysteria seems to be the response to CBC’s article today regarding PETA’s latest anti-sealing campaign.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently launched a new website ‘Olympic Shame 2010‘ in response to the 2010 Olympics being held in Vancouver next year. PETA’s website transforms the three cuddly Olympic mascots Miga, Quatchi and Sumi into evil thugs, chasing and clubbing baby seals.

CBC in a news story published today on its website states that the Olympic Shame 2010 website “depicts blood-covered Inuit chasing a seal pup with stone-age clubs” and “Inuit with seal blood dripping from their hands and mouths, wielding stone-age clubs.”  Herb Jacques, who heads the Inuit community government in Makkovik, on Labrador’s northern coast, told CBC “To me it’s a mockery. It’s degrading to the Inuit.” Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said she has written to PETA to ask the organization to stop using Inuit people in its campaigns.

Response on the CBC message board by the usual pro-sealing advocates has been swift. People posting in response to the story have been practically frothing at the mouth, crying “racism” and demanding that the Canadian government shut PETA’s website down.

Photo Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Photo SSCS

This is a clear example of people getting up in arms before stopping to even consider whether the information they’ve been given is in fact correct. In this case, it is not.

First of all, the three Olympic mascots are NOT Inuit. They are fictional non-human creatures created for the Olympic website. Miga is a sea bear, Quatchi is a sasquatch and Sumi is an animal spirit that lives in BC.

Secondly, nowhere on the website does the word “Inuit” even appear. There is a video and photos of Atlantic Canadian commercial sealers killing pups. Inuit people are not depicted.

So why the accusations of racism? Why the hysteria? Why has CBC – a crown corporation directly responsible to Canadian Parliament and whose president is appointed by the Prime Minister - enflamed an already volatile situation with irresponsible and incorrect reporting?  Could it be yet one more action in the Canadian government’s campaign to hide the sins of the commercial seal slaughter behind the Inuit subsistence hunt, blurring the lines between the two, making the commercial slaughter appear necessary, and playing on the general public’s acceptance of subsistence hunting?

Photo Bridget Curran/ACASC

Photo Bridget Curran/ACASC

This comes close upon the heels of the government’s last PR stunt.  Recently, Governor General Michaelle Jean while on a visit to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, stunned reporters and cameramen when she sliced open a dead seal and ate a piece of the seal’s heart. She then spoke to reporters, defending the killing of seals, claiming that sealing is a “part of the way of life of thousands of people in our country. In the North, in the Arctic, in the East, also in coastal regions.” When asked by reporters if her actions were a message to the European Parliament which had recently banned seal products with an exemption for Inuit products, Jean replied, “Take from that what you will.” Clearly, that’s a “yes.”  She also defended her actions, explaining that it would have been rude to refuse the hospitality offered her by the people of Rankin Inlet as they prepared for the ceremonial community feast.

Response to her actions was swift. Some condemned her actions as a cynical PR stunt using Inuit as pawns in a government strategy to blur the lines between the two hunts and confuse the issue in people’s minds. Others applauded her actions, believing she acted out of solidarity with Inuit and was merely accepting a gift offered by the Inuit as part of the ceremonial dinner.

Photo Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Photo SSCS

What most people do not realize is that seal has never been part of that ceremonial dinner. Rebecca Aldworth of Humane Society International/Canada in a letter published in The Hill Times points out that town manager Paul Wayne had stated that seal meat is not normally present at community feasts. Seal was not on the menu for that particular meal. Jean had expressed hope that it would be served, and hunters accordingly went out and killed two seals.  Jean was not offered the seal heart – she asked if she could try it.  Personally, I find it hard to believe that in her previous FOUR visits to the north, never once tried seal, especially considering it is part of the staple diet in those communities.   Equally hard to believe that it was mere coincidence that caused her to request seals be killed and brought to her for her to try when cameras just happened to be present, shortly after the EU voted on banning seal products.

Of course, anyone opposing the Governor General’s actions at Rankin Inlet was branded a “racist” and a “southerner” who did not understand or appreciate the northern way of life, guilty of trying to stop the Inuit subsistence hunt.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Many opposing the commercial slaughtering of seals do not target the Inuit subsistence hunt.  It is the large-scale industrialized annual slaughter of baby seals for their skin that is opposed.

This latest CBC story and its ensuing comments would make it appear that opposing the killing of seals is now automatically perceived to be racist.  This is a dangerous strategy the government is following and the Inuit would do well to distance themselves from such a campaign or risk a backlash.

Vancouver Olympic Shame: Learn more.