Liberal Senator Mac Harb (Photo: THE MARK)

Today history was made in Ottawa.  Liberal Senator Mac Harb’s private member bill calling for the end of Canada’s commercial seal hunt was unanimously approved to pass for second reading.  Putting an end to Canada’s cruel and wasteful commercial seal hunt will FINALLY be debated in the Senate!

This is Senator Harb’s third attempt to get the bill through.  In 2010 He failed to find a seconder and the motion died a swift death.  In 2011 it was reported that Conservative Senator Lowell Murray seconded the motion but other senators voted against allowing the proposal to appear for discussion on the order paper.  Senator Harb, undeterred, returned for a third attempt and this time the motion was seconded by liberal Senator Larry Campbell and was then passed unanimously to move forward for second reading and debate.

Senator Harb’s bill calls for an end to the commercial seal hunt and compensation to be given to sealers.  The bill does not target or affect the Inuit subsistence hunt which is also exempt from the EU trade ban on seal products.

Reaction to this momentous event has been swift.  Humane Society International/Canada issued the following statement:

Senator Harb’s bill is timely and would effectively end the commercial seal slaughter in Canada. HSI/Canada further proposes that any legislation to end the seal slaughter be paired with a federal sealing industry buyout. This plan would involve the federal government ending the commercial seal slaughter, providing immediate compensation to sealers and investing in economic alternatives in the communities involved. Polling shows half of sealers holding an opinion are already in support of this plan and the overwhelming majority of Canadians are willing to fund it. Given sealers and other Canadians are willing to move beyond commercial sealing, it is time our government acted.”

The Green Party of Canada issued a press release which stated:

“The sealing industry had been dying for years,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “It’s time to stop providing life support to this disappearing industry by ending the massive government subsidies. Taxpayers’ money is better spent creating sustainable economic opportunities in coastal communities.”

International Fund for Animal Welfare issued the following statement:

Senator Harb’s bill is supported by public opinion polls that repeatedly show the majority of Canadians would like to see an end to the commercial seal hunt.  At the very least, the Canadian government should debate this issue on behalf of those citizens. It’s time.

When asked about the chances of the bill ultimately being passed, Senator Harb replied, “I’m a realist. I do believe the government and the Senate will not allow me to get it through. But I want to get the discussion going, whether they like it or not. That’s democracy.“   Whether or not this bill is ultimately successful, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind this marks a turning point in Canada.  As the Chronicle Herald pointed out:  “But the bill is another hint that the days of unwavering loyalty to the seal hunt are coming to an end.” 

Reaction from the pro-sealing camp has also been swift.  Sealing industry representatives have spoken against calls to end the unprofitable seal hunt, claiming Canada’s sealing industry is “very much alive and well.”  They provide some disingenuous facts to back up those dubious claims.

Here, they neglect to mention the profits and exports have been declining with each passing year.  In 2011 the seal hunt brought in under $1 million, a figure dwarfed by the millions of dollars the Canadian government spends each year to subsidize the annual slaughter.  As well, substantial markets to seal products have closed since 2005.  The EU banned seal products in 2010 and Russia – which accounted for 90% of exports – banned sealskins last August.  Markets in China, long-promised by the Canadian government, have not materialized.

Hmmmm, just a tad misleading to claim sealskin prices have increased this year when the Newfoundland government gave $3.6M to a processing company to buy all the seal skins to stockpile in case markets pick up in future!  And let’s not forget the sum in excess of $17,000 the government paid a St. John’s furrier to shill sealskin at a recent international fur expo at which the only country present that did have a trade ban on seal products was Canada!!

In my opinion, an industry with a dwindling profit margin relying on subsidies from Canadian taxpayers and bailouts from the federal and provincial governments just to keep afloat is clearly NOT “alive and well.”  In my opinion, that is a drain on taxpayers should should be ended.

But of course Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette is blaming it all on the Vegetarian Lobby armed with pointy carrots and a secret agenda to turn the world into tofu-eating tree-huggers. And she also wants to market seal meat for our cats and dogs.  Oh Senator.  Don’t you remember?  They tried feeding seal meat to minks on fur farms.  The minks all died.

A frank and honest discussion about Canada’s cruel and wasteful commercial seal hunt is long-overdue.  Let’s start talking!

Science has been cancelled: Health of our oceans & harp seals sacrificed for east coast votes

There is a DFO letter making the rounds online, defending the 2012 harp seal Total Allowable Catch (TAC) which was set at an unsustainably high 400,000 last week.  The letter is signed by Morley Knight, Director-General of Resource Management at DFO, and attempts to mislead convince the public the TAC was set “in accordance with the internationally recognized precautionary approach.” 

It’s not surprising DFO has gone into repair mode in response to the bashlash to the news the Fisheries Minister had ignored the advice of his own scientists and had set the 2012 harp seal Total Allowable Catch at the request of sealing industry executives.  Both IFAW and HSI condemned the TAC.  My own letter, representing Atlantic Canadians, was published in four newspapers.

Nor is it surprising a government bureaucrat signed the editorial defending the TAC; it is highly unlikely any of the ignored scientists would agree to put their name on such a work of fiction.

Mr. Knight seems to be in denial of two concrete irrefutable facts: 

(1)  The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat concluded in its most recent Science Advisory Report the harp seal herd is in decline and the 2012 TAC should not exceed 300,000, as anything higher would not respect DFO’s management plan; and

(2)  DFO clearly stated the 400,000 TAC was guided in part by “the unanimous recommendation of industry representatives.”

Setting TACs to appease the sealing industry while ignoring scientific advice is not “in accordance with the internationally recognized precautionary approach,” although Mr. Knight seems to expect the public to believe it is.

DFO has a long history of basing conservation decisions based on political expediency rather than science.  DFO mismanaged cod into commercial extinction and has consistently failed to protect endangered species such as porbeagle shark and sockeye salmon for “socio-economic” reasons. Now it is placing the future of harp seals at risk.

Sealer about to beat to death 2- or 3-week old pup still almost completely covered in whitecoat Photo: Sheryl Fink/IFAW 2012

I was reading an article in the Ottawa Citizen this morning detailing how the government’s failure to set start dates for the commercial seal hunt in Newfoundland was causing wide-spread concern for the problems it would pose for rural towns along the east coast.  Featured in the article were doomsday-style quotes by Canadian Sealers Association executive Frank Pinhorn and Bonavista Mayor Betty Fitzgerald.  There were warnings about rapidly expanding hordes of voracious harp seals patrolling the coastline devouring all the cod and dire predictions that if the the hordes weren’t ”controlled” (read: slaughtered via club, hakapik and rifle) the fish would disappear and so would all the jobs on the east coast.

It is difficult to discern if Pinhorn and Fitzgerald are honestly deluded about seals and cod, or are guilty of wilfully spreading misinformation. In any event, both are incorrect in their recent statements to media.

Pinhorn speaks of the “growing seal population,” claiming it is at a record-high of nine to 10 million, while Fitzgerald insists the seal population must be controlled to protect fish stocks. Both Pinhorn and Fitzgerald need to read the latest Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat’s Science Advisory Report in which DFO scientists Mike Hammill and Garry Stenson advise the harp seal population is declining, with a current population of approximately 7 million individuals, and accordingly, the Total Allowable Catch should be reduced by 25%.  There has never been credible science supporting these wild claims that seals are preventing fish stocks from rebounding after years of gross human overfishing.  In fact, for those who bother investigating the issue, there is an emerging wealth of information to the contrary.

Fitzgerald and Pinhorn are guilty of the sort of irresponsible scaremongering that promotes the misconception seals must be culled to protect fish stocks. In truth, science indicates seals play an important role in our complex marine ecosystem and should be protected for the overall health of our oceans. Fitzgerald and Pinhorn would do well to quit the melodrama and stick to the facts.

In terms of claims that “lack of an April seal hunting season could pose a problem for rural towns along the coast,” the only problem the cancellation of the 2012 Newfoundland harp seal hunt poses is the sealers would miss out on their annual beer-swilling baby seal-bashing social event.  As one sealer told Paul Watson years ago, “Every year we gets to go out on the ice, get away from the old lady, drink beer with the boys and whack seals” and as sealer Desmond Adams told media a few years ago, “We all go out for the love of it rather than the money, which isn’t there anymore.”  This is not a commercial seal hunt or a hunt for subsistence – this is a yearly social event for people who love beating and shooting to death screaming seal pups.  And Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill.  That, to me, is a very real problem.

Harp seal pup, Cape Breton, 2009 Photo: B. Curran/ACASC

Tomorrow is International Day of Action for Seals, with demonstrations being held across Canada, in the US, and around the world to show opposition to the slaughter of seals in countries such as Canada and Namibia.

Some may be saying: “It is 2012, why has this slaughter not been shut down yet?!”  You need to read this inspiring blog by IFAW’s Sheryl Fink, which shows the giant strides the anti-sealing campaign has made in the past few years, and the huge victories won for seals.

I first got directly involved in the seal hunt issue in 2006 and am amazed at the accomplishments of the past six years and deeply touched by the generosity, compassion and dedication of so many around the world battling on to win protection for seals.  We are very close to ending the cruel slaughter once and for all!

Here are a few actions you can take to help protect seals on the International Day of Action for Seals:

1. Attend a demo or rally in your area. Rallies are being held across Canada, the US and internationally.  A list can be found on Facebook HERE.

2.  Tell your MP to protect seals and provide sealers with opportunities to transition out of this dying industry. Canadians can use THIS FORM to quickly and easily email their Member of Parliament to urge them to protect seals and to show real support by sealers by helping them to transition out of the industry.

3.  Tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end the commercial seal hunt. The majority of Canadians oppose the commercial seal hunt, yet each year the Harper government lavishes millions of our tax dollars on the annual slaughter.  If you live in Canada please use THIS FORM – if you live outside of Canada, please use THIS FORM – to send an email asking him to respect the wishes of Canadians and stop the slaughter.

4.  Tell Canadian Ambassador to US Gary Doer to end Canada’s commercial seal hunt. Please use THIS FORM to send a message to Gary Doer urging him to listen to people around the world, protect seals and provide sealers with opportunities to get out of the crumbling sealing industry.

5.  Send an email thanking the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, and Belarus for passing their own seal product ban. The world was shocked when it was discovered recently the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Belarus had implemented a ban on import and export of harp seal skins.  This was a major blow to the Canadian sealing industry, as Russia was the largest purchaser of Canadian harp seal skins, representing 90% of the market for pelts.  The Canadian government is now pressuring Russia to reverse its ban.   Now is the time to send a quick message of thanks to those countries and urging them to stand firm in the face of bullying from the Canadian government.  Use THIS FORM to let them know the world stands united with them in their efforts to protect defenseless seals from a horrific fate.

Grey seal pups, Hay Island, 2010 Photo: B. Curran/ACASC

6.  Send an email to the Canadian Senate to urge protection for Grey Seals. The Senate Committee on Fisheries & Oceans is currently conducting a “study” on a proposed large-scale cull of grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  It is rumoured Canadian Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield advised the Committee he wants it to recommend a cull regardless of their findings.  Send Committee members a reminder that the decision should be made based on SCIENCE, not POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY, and no credible science supports a grey seal cull.  In fact, leading Canadian scientists strongly advise against such a cull!  Use THIS FORM to send your email to Senate Committee members.

7.  Boycott Canadian Seafood. Sealers are commercial fishermen who kill seals for a bit of extra cash in the closed season.  The Canadian government was the inspiration for the Canadian seafood boycott running successfully in the US and Europe when a government official stated it would end the commercial seal hunt when fishermen asked it to do so. Please add your name to the list of those boycotting Canadian seafood until the commercial seal hunt is ended.

Just when you think the ‘Ottawa Loves Baby Seal Killers’ Farce couldn’t get any more bizarre…it does.  The government does something else that makes rational Canadians groan in embarrassment and shake their heads.

“On February 2nd, 2012, all Members of Parliament in the House of Commons will have an opportunity to support Canada’s northern and coastal communities” proudly read the press release issued yesterday by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  “As a sign of support for the individuals who rely on the sustainable seal harvest in Canada, we are asking all Members of Parliament to show their support by wearing a seal fur lapel pin in the House of Commons on February 2nd, 2012.”

What, no seal meat?  No seal pâté on tiny pastry cups?  No seal ragout served in crystal bowls?  No bacon-wrapped seal loin with port reduction?  Not a terrine or rillette in sight.  Not even a sausage.  Just little fuzzy pins.  Apparently seal is off the menu again in Ottawa.  Maybe after privately hurling back up the seal meat they’d choked down for the cameras in 2009, MPs realized there are limits to which even they will go for sealers.

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield playing the Inuit Card to blur the line between Inuit subsistence hunt and Atlantic commercial seal hunt.(Photo courtesy DFO)

This “Day of the Seal” or whatever nonsense they were calling it is clearly just another cringeworthy PR stunt put on by the Canadian government to show token support for the doomed commercial sealing industry.  And as per usual the government is playing the Inuit card, blurring the line between large-scale industrialized Atlantic commercial seal hunt and traditional Inuit subsistence hunt (that is, if you consider sitting in a truck listening to music waiting for the seal in the net to drown “traditional.”  BTW, the Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association opposes drowning seals in nets as “drowning is considered to be a protracted and, therefore, inhumane form of death”), which are two separate issues.

The press release continued “Sealing is an important economic and cultural driver in Canada’s eastern, arctic and northern communities.”

Arctic and northern communities?  Not so much.  The Inuit have nothing whatsoever to do with the commercial seal hunt.  They do not participate in the commercial seal hunt – theirs is a different hunt targeting a different species of seal.  The Inuit are exempt from the EU seal product trade ban which applies to commercial seal products, and the Nunavut government pays Inuit seal hunters an upfront, guaranteed price for seal skins under its Fur Pricing Program.

But the Inuit have allowed themselves to be drawn into this issue and whored-out pimped-out used by the Canadian government in a cynical attempt to fool or emotionally blackmail (hey, whichever works for them) Canadians into accepting the commercial seal hunt as a traditional subsistence hunt when it is most decidedly not.

HUMANE?? Photo R. Aldworth/HSI

These ploys are deeply offensive to the majority of Canadians, who are opposed to the annual slaughter and object to their tax dollars being used to defend and sustain it.

The press release stated, predictably: “Sealing is an important economic and cultural driver in Canada’s eastern, arctic and northern communities. It is a long-standing and integral part of Canada’s rural culture and a way of life for thousands of Canadians.”

No, in actual fact, the commercial seal hunt is a marginal activity involving a tiny fraction of the population of Atlantic Canada.  It is an unsustainable pastime that brings in very little revenue, cannot survive without massive subsidies from Canadian taxpayers, and could easily be replaced with a number of viable alternatives.

Liberal Senator Mac Harb seemed to be the sole voice of reason in Ottawa today.  Senator Harb said, “The Conservative government is holding yet another photo op instead of being upfront about the end of the commercial seal hunt.  The government must tell sealers the truth. The market is dead.”

Senator Harb is quite correct.  The commercial sealing industry is dead.  It’s been dying a slow death for the past few years and it’s time to do the right thing and let it go.  It’s time the Canadian government admits this, stops wasting our tax dollars on embarrassing photo-ops, emotional rhetoric and futile WTO challenges, and moves ahead with a licence buyout which would be a long-lasting solution benefiting everyone, including commercial sealers, Canadian taxpayers and Canada’s international reputation.

If anyone had any illusions the Canadian government is being truthful about the commercial seal hunt, those illusions surely have been shattered this past week.  I grew up knowing the commercial seal hunt was wrong, the killing was cruel and the whole disgusting business was unnecessary.  My grandmother, originally from a remote island known as Rams Island (later renamed Iona before being cleared and its inhabitants moved to the mainland) in Newfoundland, disagreed with my view, and I remember bitter words being spoken on the subject.  But when I actually witnessed the killing for myself for the first time in 2007 it struck me – the Canadian public has truly been betrayed by the Canadian government.  The Canadian government uses our taxes to fund the killing and misleads us in regard to every single aspect of the sadistic practice, while branding people like me – who have seen the slaughter with their own eyes – liars.  I have never lied about what I have witnessed in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  The Canadian government is the guilty party.  Here are just a few of the many lies told by our government:

LIE #1: Baby seals aren’t killed.  THE TRUTH:  Oh yes, they are – even protected whitecoats and bluebacks are killed by sealers.

This seal pup is almost completely covered in white fur and was likely 14 days old when it was killed. Not even eating solid food, still very much a baby. Photo Frank Loftus/HSUS 2011

The Canadian government claims all seals killed in the commercial seal hunt are self-reliant adults.  In actual fact, seals targeted during the commercial seal hunt are between the ages of 12 days and three months, with most being under one month of age.  Many, like the pup in the photo here, are still almost completely covered in white fur at the time of their death.  At this age they are not swimming, nor are they eating solid food.  Recently weaned, they live on fat reserves built up from their mom’s milk until they’re ready to leave the ice and swim away.

In truth, a seal can legally be killed once it begins moulting its whitecoat, which usually happens at about 12 days of age.   Recently weaned, unable to swim, escape or defend themselves against sealers, they are as helpless as babies and certainly are NOT the self-reliant adults DFO would like you to believe are the target of the commercial seal hunt.
The Canadian government is quick to point out that since 1982 it has been illegal to kill whitecoats (harp pups younger than 12 days) and bluebacks (hooded seal pups younger than 14 months).  This ban came into effect following an EU-wide ban on whitecoat seal products which caused the sealing industry to collapse.  The Canadian government has been silent on reports coming from observers that sealers were documented killing protected bluebacks.
 
LIE #2 – The commercial seal hunt is humane.  THE TRUTH – Every year observers compile hours of videotaped evidence sealers routinely violate woefully inadequate Regulations and inflict horrific cruelty on seal pups.
 

Conscious seal pups are stabbed through the eye socket and jaw with metal hooks and hauled onto boats - this is NOT illegal and is documented each year. Photo: Frank Loftus/HSUS 2011

I observed the commercial seal hunt from 2007 – 2010 and the horrors I witnessed will stay with me forever.  I was unable to travel to Newfoundland this year but have been following closely reports from Humane Society International/Canada and IFAW observers.   The reports have been grisly, to put it mildly.  Just a few instances:

  • Sealers failing to perform 3-step process, slicing open seal pups still alive and possibly conscious;
  • Seal pups showing conscious reaction to pain – voluntary movement – after being sliced open and hurled into the bottom of sealing boat;
  • Seal pups being shot in close proximity to each other as they desperately try to escape;
  • Seal pups being shot in the face, neck and back, suffering on the ice for long periods of time before boats reach them to finish them off;
  • Seal pups being shot on the ice and just left to die – sealers not even retrieving them from the ice – killing for sport;
  • Terrified seal pups being harassed and manhandled by sealers posing for photos.

 

This video, by International Fund for Animal Welfare, shows a seal pup sliced open and thrown into a boat, waving and clenching a front flipper in pain as it bleeds to death slowly in the bottom of the boat with other seal carcasses.

The bottom line is the commercial seal hunt cannot be conducted humanely.  Several factors prevent the annual kill from ever being humane.  The speed at which it is conducted (this year, in just one week 20,000 seals were killed by approximately 39 boats); extreme weather conditions; geographical location and inability of DFO Enforcement to monitor the killing to make sure killing is as humane as possible are just a few examples.  It is simply impossible for seals to be killed humanely during the annual seal kill and that’s one compelling reason the killing must be stopped.

LIE #3 - The commercial seal hunt is tightly regulated.  THE TRUTH – Regulations are inadequate to properly address animal welfare concerns and are not enforced by DFO.

HUMANE?? Photo R. Aldworth/HSI 2011

The Marine Mammal Regulations which govern the killing of seals in the commercial seal hunt are woefully inadequate to properly address animal welfare concerns.  For instance, the Regulations allow live and conscious seals to be hooked through the eye socket or jaw and dragged across the ice and into boats.  The Regulations allow pups to be shot and left, wounded and suffering, on the ice for extended periods of time before being killed by sealers.  Even the much-heralded 3-step process does not satisfy international veterinarian standards for humane slaughter.  The 3-step process, introduced by the Canadian government in 2008 as a cynical ploy to stave off a threatened EU-wide seal trade ban, is not even incorporated into the Marine Mammal Regulations; it is simply a licence condition.

In my years observing the seal hunt I saw many violations of the Marine Mammal Regulations.  From what I have been reading and seeing of this year’s slaughter, this could very well be the worst in terms of numbers of violations.  According to observers, sealers are routinely violating the Regulations and licence conditions – failing to perform the 3-step process, cutting into live and possibly conscious pups, using what appear to be illegal killing implements, killing protected hooded blueback pups, killing for sport, not landing the carcass or the pelt…the list goes on and on.  And throughout this brutal bloodbath, where is DFO enforcement?  That leads me to the next lie.

LIE #4 – The commercial seal hunt is closely monitored and enforced.  THE TRUTH – DFO does not monitor or enforce the killing of seals during the commercial seal hunt in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland.

Pups are routinely wounded with bullets and left suffering on the ice, waiting helplessly for sealers to come and beat them to death. Photo Frank Loftus/HSUS 2011

Observers at this year’s commercial seal hunt are reporting a distinct lack of DFO Enforcement presence in the killing zones.  While observers videotaped sealers committing Reg violations for hours, DFO was nowhere in sight.  This is nothing new.  During my years of observation, DFO was never around to document the killing.  Even when Coast Guard boats were in the vicinity, the sealers did what they liked with little or no regard for Regulations or even rudimentary animal welfare, while DFO looked the other way.   Each year observers submit hours of unedited footage to DFO showing clear violations of Marine Mammal Regulations.  Very few charges are ever laid by DFO as a result of this evidence given to them.

In various conversations I’ve had with DFO regarding the commercial killing of grey seals on islands in Nova Scotia, DFO has confirmed there is no constant monitoring of sealers as they kill seals.  In 2007 I was told by a DFO official, “We don’t stand there looking over their shoulder as they’re working” and in 2010 it was confirmed DFO visits periodically just to check up on things.  I’ve been advised by someone familiar with Nova Scotia sealers that the periodic DFO visits have more to do with bringing coffee for the sealers than actually monitoring the killing.

On Hay Island, a nature reserve in Nova Scotia, grey seal pups are herded together and beaten or shot to death mere inches from each other Photo R. Aldworth/HSI 2011

The truth is, even if DFO had the will to actually monitor the killing and enforce the Regulations, it is physically impossible to do so.  Even in the smaller Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, DFO has never been able to control the sealing boats and for years sealers killed above and beyond the Total Allowable Catch.  DFO admitted to reporters a few years ago it was very difficult to control the boats there.  If DFO staff cannot control boats in the relatively small Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, how can they possibly claim to be able to control boats in the much larger Northern Gulf or The Front?  In previous years, hundreds of boats participated in the commercial seal hunt.  In recent years that number has dwindled to a few dozen, but those boats are operating in an area the size of France.  DFO has a small number of vessels and limited staff – there is no physical way they can monitor the killing or enforce the law.  And yet each year they lie and claim that is precisely what they are doing!

As the reports come in daily and the videos and photographs are shared via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, the Canadian government has fallen strangely silent.  Neither Fisheries Minister Gail Shea nor Prime Minister Stephen Harper have cared to comment publicly about their many falsehoods being exposed.  Of course they don’t care to comment, since they believe they don’t have to answer to Canadians, the majority of whom, polling consistently shows, oppose the annual slaughter and object to their taxes being used to fund it.  This is why more than ever, Canadians need to make the seal hunt a voting issue.

Coming tomorrow - Lies My Government Told Me (Part 2) dealing with more porky pies told by our government, including such chestnuts as ‘Full utilization of the animal’, ‘Sealing provides much-needed income to coastal communities’ and ‘Sealing is a time-honoured tradition.”  What a load of crap…

This video, narrated by Sheryl Fink of International Fund for Animal Welfare, was shot during the first day of the commercial seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland and shows the cruelty inherent in the annual slaughter. On the video are violations of Marine Mammal Regulations, but even more troubling are the acts of brutality to seal pups which are perfectly legal and acceptable under the Marine Mammal Regulations.

The Canadian government claims the commercial seal hunt is “tightly regulated” and “closely monitored.” Each year, however, hours of video footage is compiled by lawful observers which prove those claims are false.

The seal hunt is regulated in the sense there exists a set of Marine Mammal Regulations to which sealers are supposed to adhere. However, the Regulations are woefully inadequate and do not ensure acceptable animal welfare standards are met. Even the much-heralded “3-step process” does not meet international veterinarian standards for humane slaughter. Let me put it this way — it is perfectly legal under the Marine Mammal Regulations for sealers to impale conscious seal pups through the face or other body part with large metal hooks and drag them across the ice, before throwing them onto a boat and finishing them off with a club. Does that sound humane to you? It is not.

The government’s other claim — the commercial seal hunt is “closely monitored” — is also BOGUS. I guess it all depends on their definition of “monitored.” IFAW reported that during the first day of the killing spree, DFO Enforcement was nowhere in sight. Sealers were routinely violating the Marine Mammal Regulations and DFO was not present to monitor or enforce those Regulations.

This is nothing new.  Each and every year sealers violate Marine Mammal Regulations and inflict unimaginable agony on defenceless seal pups, while DFO Enforcement looks the other way.  Oftentimes, DFO is too busy keeping an eye on lawful licenced observers to actually do their job and monitor the killing.

I urge everyone to contact Canada’s Minister of Fisheries Gail Shea and ask her how she can possibly continue to insist the commercial seal hunt is humane and it clearly isn’t.  Tell her the evidence is irrefutable.  Tell her we are tired of the Canadian government misinforming the public as to the true nature of the cruel commercial seal hunt.  Tell her it must end now.  Her contact info is as follows:

Email: min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Twitter: @CPCGailShea

Tomorrow I will post more ways you can help Canada’s seals.

Emily McCoy, a US citizen arrested after putting a tofu cream pie in the face of Canada’s Fisheries Minister Gail Shea last year, was convicted of assault today and sentenced to two years probation during which time she is banned from entering Canada and from contacting Shea, Fisheries officials and officials from other Canadian institutions such as embassies and consulates.

During a speech given by Shea at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters, McCoy stood up, pushed the pie into Shea’s face and berated her for authorizing the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of baby seals each year on the east coast of Canada.  McCoy’s actions were denounced by Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP Gerry Byrne who declared PETA should be labeled a “terrorist organization” as a consequence (but believes terrorizing, torturing and skinning alive baby seals is a time-honoured tradition). 

MP Gerry Byrne eating pie. Seriously. He's eating pie. Probably not tofu cream, though


Gail Shea complained to media she had not yet received an apology from McCoy, ignoring the fact that the majority of Canadians are still waiting for an apology from her for using their tax dollars to fund the world’s largest slaughter of marine mammals.

Likewise, PETA’s Emily Lavender is still waiting for an apology from the coward who hid inside the Salty Dog costume as he physically assaulted her before shoving a pie in her face while she conducted a peaceful demonstration in St. John’s.  Interesting enough, police didn’t arrest him for assault.  I guess it’s only assault if it’s a federal government official getting the pie in the face…

The question is not whether pieing constitutes assault, or a terrorist act, or whether McCoy’s sentence was stiff enough, or whether the revenge taken against Emily Lavendar in St. John’s was appropriate.  The real question is:  How the hell do we ban Gail Shea from Canada?

Today – March 15th – is the Global Day of Action Against Sealing.  Rallies and demonstrations are being held all over the world to voice opposition to the cruel commercial hunting of seals.  Here in Halifax, we’ll be hosting a rally on Saturday, March 19th at 11 am at the Main Gates of the Public Gardens, corner of Spring Garden and South Park.

In the meantime, here are a couple of actions you can take on this Day of Action to help seals (or tomorrow, if you can’t get to them today):

1.  Tell Canada’s Minister of International Trade to drop the WTO challenge.  The Canadian government is determined to fight the EU seal product ban which will cost Canadian taxpayers a further $10 million and could put in jeopardy a trade deal presently being discussed by Canada and the EU.  HSI has other actions you can take to help seals – you’ll see them listed after you’ve sent your email to Canada’s Trade Minister.

2.  Contact your Member of Parliament.  Tell them you oppose the cruel commercial seal hunt, want to see it ended and would like to know their position on the issue.

According to The Navigator Online, Conservative MP for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, Scott Armstrong, moved to introduce a new bill yesterday that “will better protect Canadian sealers from angry anti-sealing protesters.”

NS MP Scott Armstrong gives thumbs-up to pathetic pointless posturing in the run-up to a federal election

In his introduction of Bill C-636, MP Armstrong said, “In fact, in 2008 the Canadian Coast Guard had to seize a vessel and arrest European activists who were putting sealers’ lives at risk by coming dangerously close to the hunt.“  He is referring to the incident in which the Canadian government claimed the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s vessel ‘Farley Mowat’ got too close to the hunt after sealers complained the Farley Mowat was ramming the ice upon which they stood as they beat to death defenceless baby seals.  The Farley Mowat was stormed and boarded by Gestapo RCMP, female crew members were roughly thrown down and held on the ground, and everyone was arrested and thrown in jail.  Eventually, Captain Alex Cornelissen and First Officer Peter Hammarstedt were found guilty of interfering with Canada’s seal hunt in Nova Scotia Kangaroo Provincial Court.

The Act seeks to amend the Marine Mammal Regulations to increase the distance non-licenced observers must stay from the seal hunt.  Currently anyone not in possession of an observation permit must stay a one-half nautical mile from sealers.  This Bill seeks to increase that distance to one full nautical mile.

My immediate reaction was righteous indignation.  Any distance restriction – and the very requirement to apply for an observation permit - is a gross violation of our Charter Rights as Canadians. 

However, upon reflection I decided to lighten up and have a chuckle at the sheer silliness of the business.  And let’s face it, there are so many shades of silly to this Bill that I hardly know where to begin.

NS sealer about to bludgeon terrified baby grey seal on Hay Island 2011 (Photo: Rebecca Aldworth/Humane Society International)

First of all, if “angry anti-sealing protesters” are so determined to approach sealers that they ignore the one-half nautical mile stipulation, such “dangerous radicals” certainly are not going to be deterred by an increase to that stipulation.  A half-nautical mile is quite a distance and really should be sufficient to keep unlicenced observers (or, “dangerous radicals” as Mr. Armstrong likes to refer to them) away from physical confrontations with sealers.  Considering ice conditions in the past few years, one would have to get alot closer than one-half nautical mile to cause mischief.  To increase the distance requirement to a full mile is overkill and just plain silly.  Not to mention the waste of taxpayers’ money.  But then, considering the millions of our tax dollars the government currently lavishes on this crumbling and unprofitable industry, what’s a few thousand more? *nudge nudge wink wink*

Secondly, Mr. Armstong has gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick.  Sealers don’t need protection from observers – observers are the ones in need of protection.  The only violence perpetrated by human against human on (and off) the ice is committed by sealers.  Although licenced observers must remain 10 metres away from sealers, there is no similar distance requirement for sealers, and they are free to approach and assault observers.  And they quite often do assault observers.  Where was Mr. Armstrong’s concern when a Newfoundland sealer attacked an observer with a hakapik (charges were stayed and the sealer agreed to make a $500 donation to a local food bank instead of going to court)?  Where was Mr. Armstrong’s indignation when Nova Scotia sealers chased an inflatible craft carrying observers through dangerous icepans, brandishing their rifles and threatening to shoot them?  But then, that’s right – Mr. Armstrong seems to care only for the safety of Canadian sealers.  He doesn’t seem to care about the safety of Canadian observers.  Perhaps Mr. Armstrong should give serious thought to his priorities and work instead to ensure the safety of Canadian citizens who observe and document the seal hunt each year, and propose to amend the Marine Mammal Regulations to impose a restriction on the distance sealers must remain from observers.  Nah, can’t see that happening.  After all, there are more sealers voting in the upcoming federal election than seal hunt observers.

This pup was shot, gagged through face and hauled across ice while still conscious by NS sealer Pat Briand in 2008 (Photo: IFAW)

And that’s the final point.  Armstrong’s proposed Bill is not about “…protecting our sealers on the very ice where they conduct the seal hunt”, nor is he being truthful when he claims  ”it is about protecting our sealers, and it is the right thing to do.  This is about pre-election posturing.  This is about sending the message to the fishing and sealing industry of Atlantic Canada that the Conservative Party of Canada has their “back”, truly cares about them and their families, and is willing to move heaven and earth to enshrine their right to bludgeon and shoot to death defenceless baby seals.  If Armstrong truly cared about sealers, he would stop the unproductive posturing and propose the abolition of the commercial seal hunt and the implementation of a licence buyout.

I wonder if Armstrong came up with this scheme on his own or if he was instructed to do so by Stephen “Dead Eyes” Harp(sealkill)er?  Either way, he should be ashamed of himself for such pathetic posturing.  It is highly unlikely this Bill will pass.  Private member bills rarely become law.   But then, whether or not it becomes law isn’t important to the Conservatives – it’s the optics, the illusion that the Conservative government cares enough about sealers to want to change the law to ensure their safety.