Clubs, Hearts and a Diamond

The Canadian seal hunt has been a hot debate topic for a long time. Seal hunters, of course maintain that the practice is vital to their livelihoods while animal rights groups say it’s just a senseless slaughter whose main point is to harvest baby seal pelts for the sake of fashion.

sealcoat

Aboriginals living in the Canadian arctic have been hunting seals for centuries and use them for food, lamp and cooking fuel and used the skins and pelts for clothing. The practice continues today for most of the same reasons. Seal meat is an important source of food for residents of small coastal communities.

Thel meat is also exported to Asia for animal feed; seal leather is exported all over the world as is seal oil which is high in Omega-3 fats. And we all know what a hot commodity Omega-3 fats are at the moment.

The hunt takes place mainly in northern Newfoundland and Labrador in an area where the jobless rate is in excess of 15%.  Approximately 6,000 people earn one-third of their income from sealing. The allowable catch quota for 2009 has been set at 280,000.

That sounds like a lot of seals. Especially when we think of the horrible images of the cute, big-eyed baby seals being clubbed to death with hakapiks.

 20081230_hakapik

Hakapiks are, in fact only used when sealers can’t use harpoons or when there are too many sealers in one area to safely use a rifle. A report in the Canadian Veterinary Journal found that 98% of seals taken in the hunt are killed in a humane manner.

Some of you may remember Sir Paul McCartney and the psycho bitch lovely woman who was then his wife strapping themselves to an ice floe to protect the seals.

160X_cp_mccartney_060303

Every animal rights group in the world has tried their best to get this practice banned. (Not the practice of celebrities taking up a cause they know nothing about — the practice of the seal hunt)

Just this month the European Union voted to impose a ban on all seal products.

This is all so interesting to me because I don’t see how harvesting seals is any different from farming and slaughtering cattle, chickens, pigs, lambs, etc. If cameras were as freely allowed inside slaughterhouses maybe Sir Paul and the wife du jour would be strapping themselves to meat hooks.

slaughterhouse

The federal government  keeps a close eye on the seal hunt. It’s not the free-for-all bloodfest we keep seeing in the media. There are only 3 types of seals allowed in the hunt: harp seals, hooded seals and grey seals. Most of the hunt is for harp seals. The cute, big-eyed white seals the animal rights groups always show are the newborn harp seals called “whitecoats”.

 baby-seal

Aawwwww.

The killing of whitecoats has actually been banned in Canada since the mid-1980s. But I guess photos of adult harp seals wouldn’t garner as much sympathy.

adultseal

Eewwwww.

As a vegetarian I am, of course, no fan of slaughtering any animal for food or any other purpose when there are so many other options available. But I’m even less of a fan of hypocrisy.

If we’re going deprive these sealers of a good part of their livelihood and source of food, then we should also impose a ban on all other animal products. Everywhere. Including the European Union.

I bring this topic up now because it’s sealing season up north, and also because of what our beautiful Governor General, Michaëlle Jean did yesterday.

jean

She’s on a tour of the Canadian arctic regions and classy lady that she is, she joined in the native seal hunt. She got right in there and gutted a seal, then along with the other sealers pulled out the animal’s heart and ate a chunk of it. Raw. Then she daintly wiped her bloody hands on a tissue.

She wanted to show solidarity with the beleaguered sealers. She said,

It was absolutely delicious. These are ancient practices that are part of a way of life. If you can’t understand that, you’re completely missing the reality of life here.

Warm, raw seal heart apparantly tastes like sushi. The woman rocks.

GG NORTH 20090525

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34 responses to “Clubs, Hearts and a Diamond

  1. I never really did like Michaëlle Jean that much. But after reading this post, I’ve suddenly gained a whole lot of respect for her.

    PS. Get off the fence. Tell us what you REALLY think of Heather Mills! 🙂

  2. It’s very much like our deer population controls in Scotland. If guys didn’t go and shoot them, the countryside would be wrecked. But also, it’s what human beings have done in this country since forever.

    It’s honourable carnivorism.

    The way I see it, it’s far more humane and sensible to eat the meat of animals that have lived a life in the wild. Organic?Yesss….Free-range? Yesss. If you are a meat eater (like me), it’s the best option to keep your conscience from nagging you.

    And venison is low fat too, weight watchers!

    (Just don’t watch “Bambi” before during or after eating)

  3. I am a vegetarian because I love animals. I also love the way they taste, but as you said, there are too many options to keep me breathing. I also understand it’s been done for centuries, as has the slaughter of people, but we frown on that. I think maybe we need to look at things not in terms of how we treat other animals, but how we would feel if it was us being clubbed for our skin. I for one would really hate it, even if it was quick and painless.

    Is my life more important than a seal’s? To you and me? Yes. To the seal? Not so much. Over time, the seal could even learn to type it out on a specially made keyboard for fins and tell you for itself. I know people that can’t do that, but I can’t club them and wear their skin. I don’t think that’s fair.

  4. This is really a terrible thing. Seal hunts are terribly inhumane.

    Think of all the livelihoods lost because seals aren’t factory farmed. How can the poor multinational food conglomerates sustain themselves when they can’t slaughter seals behind closed factory doors like they do with other animals? The sealing industry is based on individuals–hunters–to harvest livestock?!? How can anyone profit off of these people’s work?

    I bet they don’t even add any synthetic preservatives and dyes to the seal products! A complete snub to our country’s hardworking corporate scientists.

    Tsk. I shake my head to think about our backward and uncivilized country.

    Now off to the supermarket to buy some canned meat.

    – RG>

  5. OK, you so could have put a warning at the start of that post about the meat picture. I scrolled down and it was just…THERE.

    I still have (usually non-Canadian, meat-eating friends) urging me to boycott Canadian seafood products to protest the seal hunt. I think I might just start sending them to read this post when they start asking what I think. (I’d send them to my post, but, well, they don’t know about my blog, do they.)

    mayopie, in all fairness, doesn’t human skin make poor leather? It’s all about quality, man.

  6. Friar – Fois gras indeed. And ya, I’ve sort of been on the fence about the GG, but this was totally cool.

    MisssyM – Well, I think what makes this not so bad in my books is that the Innu sort of depend on seals and fish for food. Most of US have lots of other options; we don’t need to eat meat at all and would certainly balk at doing so if we had to kill and dress it ourselves. So, yes in that respect it is honourable carnivorism. (ominvorism)

    Mayopie – I completely agree. We, in the modern world have no need to slaughter animals just so we can slop ketchup on them and eat them. We have plenty of other stuff to eat that’s actually much better for us. BUT, these arctic natives (Innuits aka Eskimos) don’t have natural food stores that stock tofu, they don’t have greengrocers and they can’t even grow a garden that will produce much. Vegetables either come canned or not at all — and often it’s not at all. It’s dark 6 months of the year and a lot of these people don’t have electricity or indoor plumbing. They require a diet very high in fats in order to survive. I think in this case they’re justified in hunting to eat. Yes, they also hunt to make some money to buy other stuff, but like I said, if we’re going to stop them killing seals then we have to stop everyone else from killing all other animals as well.

    Grouchy – I know, eh? The audacity. Taking food out of the mouths of multinationals.

    Guillermo – Ostensibly it’s the Queen who chooses the GG, but I’m sure SH gets the real credit this time. Of course, I think he probably chose her for reasons of his own.

    Louise – People are sometimes so ridiculous, you just want to shake your head.

  7. “As a vegetarian I am, of course, no fan of slaughtering any animal for food or any other purpose when there are so many other options available. But I’m even less of a fan of hypocrisy.”

    Love this. I feel the say way.

  8. She obviously has a stronger stomach than me and heres to her for honoring the tradition she was visiting.
    As for the dear little wide eyed adorable seals its just tear jerking manipulation on the part of the protesters.
    If the seals were scaly or slimy virtually no one would care.

  9. FYI local tv had a poll about her tearing the heart out of a live warm seal and 76% of the people supported her supporting the Inuit.

  10. It may not seem so, but I’m actually in agreement with you. I don’t know where one draws the line for what is acceptable slaughter. In this case, it’s certainly more sensible and necessary, so the uproar is clearly based on cuteness. Your point regarding this is well taken. However, traditions (not necessarily this one) can be really stupid and continuing to do something stupid because your parents’ parents did it is no excuse. My family traditions are always up for evaluation based on whether or not (using modern day thought) my ancestors were tools.

    I was simply taking things a step further. Who’s to say our lives are more important than theirs, or any animal? We’re to say because we have thumbs. And because we have thumbs we can choose to slaughter them. Would they slaughter us if they had thumbs? Probably not. That’s why maybe we’re the real animals. Spooky.

    Meanwhile, as I may have mentioned, I’ve only been a veg for about 9 months and I would so eat the hell out of a baby seal right now.

  11. Yeah well whitecoats are cute. Funny enough, no one bitches about veal and lamb – and those wittle babies really are slaughtered.

    But I guess they don’t make the cut on the cuteness scale…

  12. I am of the mind, that if you are so against what someone does to feed their family that you want to take that income away from them, then you should also be willing to foot the bill for providing them the lost income. Unfortunately, those who want to deprive people of their incomes in this way, never provide an alternate plan.

  13. I’ve been reading your blog for a while but have never commented, but this post today has compelled me to post.

    While I agree wholeheartedly with your original post (the hypocrisy practiced by some of these animal rights groups drives me insane, and I’m a vegetarian too), one of your subsequent comments was a little off the mark and slightly insulting.

    While it’s true that some aspects of the lifestyles of the Inuit, Innu, Inuvialuit, et al in the North are very different than the lifestyles of us here in the south, it is ignorant to insinuate “a lot of these people don’t have electricity or indoor plumbing.” Communities in the North do have indoor plumbing and they definitely do have electricity (though it is mostly all run by diesel generators)! Northern residents live in modern housing just like we do, they just live a little closer to the land than we city-folk do.

  14. I can’t believe that the first episode of Canada’s Next Top Model included a photo shoot with a whitecoat, while its mom freaked out out of shot.

  15. I am impressed with your GG. I work for a conservation organisation but as far as I am concerned, the seal hunt appears to be carried out in a controlled and sustainable manner. Other hunting issues are much more serious and potentially disastrous and yet satisfactory action has not been taken. I refer to over fishing of salmon and cod and whales. Even killing sharks for their fins is a far more serious problem than this essentially native people’s tradition.

  16. I completely disagree. I hate the seal hunt. But its not so much protesting the aboriginals hunting as everyone else doing it. Sounds like a double standard but there you have it.

    The hunt does kill young seals, often inhumanely. Many seals are clubbed and left to die on the ice, while others are skinned alive.

    Unlike livestock (Who incidentally are also often kept in crowded, cruel conditions), this is a rushed hunt to kill off as many wild animals as one is permitted. (The government has raised the allowable quota of animals killed, placing this species at risk, which is terrible considering they are also suffering from habitat loss from reduced stable ice)

    Unethical, unsustainable and barbaric are three words to most accurately describe it.

    Oh and the Governor General-Not a classy lady at all.

  17. I’m reading these comments and shaking my head. Some people just don’t’ get it.

    You know, it’s really easy for us to sit here and judge, living in our sub-burbs, within minutes of the grocery store. And start knocking the seal hunt. And imply that people have options.

    Have some of these commenters BEEN up north? Housing is expensive (especially heating fuel). Jobs are scarce, and the few grocery stores around are extremely expensive. (Has anyone ever TRIED to buy fresh veggies North of 60?)

    People living up there depend not only on the hunt to subsidize their meager incomes, but also the meat, to subsidize their food budget. A few hundred pounds of meat in the freezer goes a long way to helping the grocery bills.

    I’m not just talking about the natives living way up in the Arctic. Canada’s a big place. There are plenty of communities further south (but still quite remote) where this applies to.

  18. Lynn – Well, she wasn’t brazen enough to give Steve the heave-ho when she had her chance,, but I guess she’s brazen enough to put herself right in the path of this huge controversy.

    Debra – Thanks Debra. People who freak out over fur coats and then go home and enjoy a nice rack of BBQ ribs. Pffft.

    Bandobras – The ones they kill are big fat slimy sea creatures, much like the ones on your tuna sandwich. Most Canadians seem to understand the seal hunt thing, but a whole bunch of the rest of the world is appalled with us – and her.

    Mayopie – I totally agree about traditions (weddings & Christmas especially). And no, I don’t think our lives are more important per se, but if you have ever studied ethics they are very handy for working through dilemmas like this. It’s a matter of weighing respective rights – the animal’s right to life vs. the human’s right to life. First we weigh the quality of life of each and unfortunately the human will win that one just because of his mental and physical advancements and because of his life expectancy. Then we ask if the human is killing the animal to survive? Could he survive without killing the animal? Will his life be jeopardized if he doesn’t kill the animal? And, will more than one human life be jeopardized if the animal isn’t killed? And I think the animal would absolutely kill and eat a human if it was a matter of survival. Even apes, who are largely vegetarian, will kill other animals for food if the veggie pickings are slim.

    Jazz – We just don’t get to see the lambs and calves getting popped in the head. And their blood oozing on the slaughterhouse floor isn’t as gruesome as seal blood on pure white snow.

    Susan – Very true and it goes even beyond income – as I mentioned, this is an important food source for a lot of people as well. Big Macs will just not provide the same amount of nutrition.

    Lauren – Thanks for reading and for commenting finally! I do realize that many people living in the North have modern homes with electricity and plumbing, but there really are actually Canadians today living without these basics. Look at Davis Inlet for instance. That community was just recently (2003) relocated to Natuashish so they now do have electricity and plumbing, but I know there are still communities without these amenities in remote areas of Newfoundland and Labrador. I wasn’t trying to be insulting, but I should perhaps have clarified that I was only talking about “a few” communities.

    Meagan – Thanks woman!

    Louise – I can’t believe you watched Canada’s Next Top Model! Ha ha. The kid had it on last night, too and I did see them hovering around the cute baby harp seal.

    LGS – The whole non-sustainable fishing issue seems not to make the headlines very much at all, does it? From what I’ve read there really isn’t any fish that isn’t being overfished. You want to see something really gruesome, go to the annual Sharkarama in Halifax. Boatloads of overzealous fishing people compete to see who can bring back the most pounds worth of shark in a certain number of hours. It’s a slaughterfest. And there seems to be no legitimate reason for this except big fun.

    Dr. Monkey – I’m glad. I know a lot of other countries look at Canadians as barbarians for this practice.

    Cedar – With a little salt and pepper.

    Hannah – I’ve read all the points you make on many animal rights websites. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other regulating bodies would dispute some of these points. The killing of whitecoats is illegal. Seals are killed instantly. Measures are taken to ensure seals are dead before being skinned. There is an annual quota set by the government which makes sure the practice is sustainable. Other countries that hunt seals do not regulate which is what may be causing the concern over the worldwide decline of the seal population. Anyway, as I said, I’m not a fan of slaughtering anything but I really don’t like how the spotlight is on this particular animal when animals of all sorts are being raised (as you say) and slaughtered in the most inhumane ways possible every day. At least the seal hunt is providing food and money to people who really need it and who would suffer without it. Big corporate chicken farms just make conglomerates rich.

    Friar – Thank you. It’s these points exactly that makes this practice ethical in my opinion. If there were a bunch of people clubbing pigeons or squirrels in downtown Toronto every spring because it makes for a fun BBQ for them or because squirrel hats were suddenly fashionable, I’d be strapping myself to the CN tower along with Sir Paul in protest, too. I think it’s very difficult for people to comprehend that there are people living in Canada without all the mod cons.

  19. Great post XUP and kudos to the GG.

    As the Friar says, some people just don’t get it. Some folks in the North NEED to hunt. Need.

    And many folks are under a lot of misperceptions about the seal hunt – most of it put out by the self-righteous anti-seal hunt industry. Most of the seals are shot with a rifle – not clubbed to death.

    I can respect the opinions of those who say “no” to all meat and animal products. They are at least being consistent in their beliefs. But I have a hard time diggin’ those who scream like hell about the seals but are just fine with having a turkey at Thanksgiving or stopping off at Taco Bell for a quick bite. This food comes from critters as well and if the arguement is “live and let live”, then that must apply to the critters who aren’t as (awwwww) cute as the seal pups.

    Have any of you been to an abbatoir? I have. And it is disturbing. I could describe in detail how a pig is slaughtered but I won’t because some of you would be disgusted.

    So I ask: what makes the goings-on in the slaughterhouse broadly “acceptable” to society and what happens on the ice floes not “acceptable”?

  20. I’ve always thought the GG to be a classy lady. This just reaffirms my opinion. She behaved diplomatically and respectfully.

  21. I have even more respect for our GG. What a classy move and a wonderful show of solidarity.

  22. Re having mod cons:

    It’s always a shock to me when I see a map of northern Ontario and there’s a little telephone symbol on it to signify “Hey, you wanna use the phone? Gotta go there!”

    I have a friend who lived for a while in Inuvik, NWT: Kraft salad dressing? $5.09. A jug of milk? $9.95 (and she says this is only mildly expensive compared to areas that do not have road access). Three litres of Tide? $19.95.

    If you have to supplement your income/diet/WHATEVER with something? Go for it. 100%. We have no idea down here what it’s like.

    My favourite quote so far is:

    “It amazes us that a Canadian official would indulge such blood lust. It sounds like she’s trying to give Canadians an even more Neanderthal image around the world than they already have.” – Dan Mathews, vice-president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

    I’d rather be a seal killer covered in blood than a racist who completely lacks cultural sensitivity. Not that I would ever be a PETA supporter, but I wonder why any Canadian would be after this comment.

  23. Right on Meagan – and how can any of us forget PETA’s infamous ad after that poor soul was murdered on the Greyhound bus?
    Like a lot of narrow-interest groups, PETA seems to be comprised of a great many small-minded zealots who have no use whatsoever for views that do not goose-step alongside their own.

  24. Trashee – It’s interesting how very different the information on the animal rights’ sites is compared to the government type websites on the whole seal hunt thing. This is when it becomes important to look really carefully at the language used — is it designed to inflame? is it deliberately vague? Canada gets blamed for all this, but other countries hunt seals, too and Canada is actually the country with the most safeguards and regulations.

    Alison – I’m sure it wasn’t just a spur of the moment whim on her part, but something carefully planned, so she DOES have her own agenda, but still…

    GND- What I said to Alison…

    Meagan – PETA does a lot of good stuff, it’s too bad they get so carried away and that their PR is so insane.

  25. Oh, you crazy Canadians. (And I mean that in the nicest possible way). You never know what you’re going to think up next…..

  26. What a complicated topic! I’ll just throw in a couple of my thoughts – I don’t think anyone has the right to earn a living doing things that are destructive (e.g. cut down old-growth forests like they are doing here in Tasmania), and I find the hypocrisy of being upset about certain cute animals being killed while it being OK for others to be part of the diet to be rather annoying. Recently we had disastrous fires here, and a photo of a koala being given water by a fireman made it around the world, but in Tasmania timber harvesters are poisoning wildlife.

  27. XUP, usually I agree with you. I went from doe eyed child who hated the slaughter of babies to a young adult who supported the hunt.
    Then I moved to the Maritimes and sat and listened to ACTUAL seal hunters.

    They talked about the authorities looking the other way at things like skinning the animals alive and 280 000 seals are not being processed into food, omega 3 oil capsules etc. The vast majority that are slaughtered in Newfoundland are left on the ice. What they take is their skins. It would be like slaughtering cattle and only taking the skins.

    This was a PR stunt in keeping with Canada’s decision to force Olympic athletes to wear seal skin outfits at the next winter games.

    I have absolutely no doubt that there are subsistence hunters in the far north and labrador who use the whole seal…but thats not the reality of the seal hunt and that respect for the animal and that traditional lifestyle shouldn’t be exploited in this kind of PR stunt either.

    Nappy omnivore who guts her own fish.