I received a promotional packet sponsored by Air Canada the other day entitled “Discover the Essence of Canada.” My immediate thought was “no thanks, not yet.” I threw it in the sack in which I collect most of my dry trash for recycling.
For Daily Mail reporter Danny Penman, he discovered the true essence of Canada in a way he’d probably love to forget. (The Daily Mail is a right-of-center British paper which regularly reports on serious worldwide cases of animal abuse.)
Most people who pay reasonable attention to world events know about the seal culls in Canada. However, aside from animal-rights groups, there is not enough outrage. We know about it, but we think it’s sanitized and controlled, simply an attempt for “heroic” Newfie fishermen to retain their livelihood. Some even think it is about protecting the Inuits’ way of life and their traditions. This is anything but true. It is what the Canadian government wants us to think.
Penman reports that the Canadian government, which approves and subsidizes the seal hunts, have earmarked 325,000 baby seals to be slaughtered and fishermen in Newfoundland will reap the rewards from the pups’ fur pelts. Penman describes in gory detail the massively blood-stained ice floes to be found along the province’s Atlantic coast. He witnessed the zeal at which seals are killed and how not one will be left alive before this year’s cull ends. But while he was uncovering the scenes of this carnage, he went through hell at the hands of not only Newfoundland’s hillbilly fishermen, but also the police and other Canadian authorities who were completely apathetic to his plight.
I was subjected to days of violent intimidation before eventually managing to become the first journalist to witness Canada’s “secret” seal slaughter … First of all, the car I was travelling in was rammed and forced off the road by angry fishermen. Six 4×4 trucks then chased me and a small group of anti-cull activists across open fields and repeatedly smashed into us at 30-40 mph, clearly intending to do us serious damage. Other fishermen pelted us with bricks and rocks. Miraculously, none of us was hurt, but several vehicles, including mine, were written off.
“I knew they would beat up the men, but I was worried they would rape me,” says Vera Weber, co-ordinator of the Switzerland-based Franz Weber animal welfare charity, who was travelling in my car. “They were shouting at us: ‘We’ll kiss the girl, we’ll kiss the girl.’ I don’t think the ‘kisses’ would be affectionate ones.”
When we eventually escaped the fishermen and made it back to our hotel, there was a mob lying in wait for us, hurling abuse. They were volatile-looking, heavy-set rednecks — I knew that one punch would knock me down. We managed to get into the hotel … we spent the next ten hours imprisoned.
The Canadian police, Mounties and authorities all refused to help us. At one point, a local policeman arrived but was soon joking with our captors and did nothing to help us. The police stepped in only after British, Swedish, U.S. and German diplomats demanded that they take action to free us.
As if this wasn’t reprehensible enough, for Penman it was only to get worse:
Airports also began refusing to sell us fuel for our helicopters — they pretended they’d run out — and we heard that our flight plans had been passed on to the fishermen. As a result, we were met with hostility in whichever town we tried to escape from them.
When Penman did finally get to witness the seal cull, he found it was rife with incompetence:
The vast majority of seals killed are shot, rather than clubbed to death. At first glance this seems like a small but welcome step forward. Surely shooting an animal has to be better than battering it to death with a club?
That might be the case if the fishermen were crack marksmen operating in ideal conditions. However, they are often poor shots, use decrepit firearms and fire at the animals from the deck of a boat pitching about in a choppy sea. To make the job even more difficult, the seals are also bobbing about in the water or on small pieces of floating, slushy ice. As a result, the fishermen rarely get a clean shot, so many seals are simply wounded and manage to escape. Vast numbers later die a slow, agonizing death from their wounds.
So, it appears that yahoos with guns aren’t a phenomenon unique to rural America.
According to Penman, Canadian authorities stipulate that around 5 percent of the seals are shot and manage to escape. Independent studies, however, reveal that the figure is up around 50 percent. Do the math, as Penman has, and that means 115,000 seal pups will die horribly. And, in just this season alone, 436,000 seal pups in total will be zealously killed by Canadian fishermen — with the tacit approval of their federal government.
Again, just where is the outrage? Canada has pulled this sort of behavior before, in the ’70s and again in the ’80s, but both times they stopped due to worldwide disapproval. Once again, it is time to hit Canada where it really hurts. Penman explains how this can be done:
The [British and other animal welfare] campaigners are not only bearing witness to the horrific slaughter but also organizing a boycott of Canadian fish and tourism. In the 1980s, a similar boycott helped bring an equally horrific cull to a halt. Given that the fishermen receive around 95 percent of their income from fish, they are most vulnerable to a boycott … Virtually all of Canada’s fish exports go to Britain, the U.S. and Japan. Without these valuable markets, the fishermen would have neither the money nor the inclination to kill seals.
More than 400 retailers in the U.S. have already stopped selling Canadian fish … [This] has cost the fishermen $160 million in lost sales. Campaigners hope that the big U.K. supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s will soon join the boycott. If this happens, the sealers will be dealt a crippling blow. The Canadian authorities are clearly rattled by the possibility of such a consumer backlash.
This is good news. A boycott should have some real power behind it. The more businesses and citizens alike boycott Canadian goods, especially fish, and Canadian travel, the more incentive Canada will have to end this latest attempt to capitalize on the seal fur trade. It is also great news that American retailers are refusing to sell Canadian fish — after all, this probably violates a free trade clause inherent in NAFTA, but if the Canadians complain, hopefully the U.S. will assert the right of American businesses to make independent decisions regardless of the free trade pact.
And, as this BBC sponsored thread on the subject from two years ago demonstrates, there is at least some outrage to be reckoned with, although the pro-cull peanut gallery pipes up as well in spots.
If anyone is inclined to feel sorry for Newfoundland’s poor hick population, just consider what Professor Stephen Harris, a wildlife expert at the University of Bristol, who also has witnessed the seal culls, has to say about it:
“The impression I got,” said Harris, “was of the fishermen’s complete indifference to suffering. It’s the worst kind of cruelty I have ever seen and the fishermen clearly don’t give a damn.”
Mark Glover, of the British animal charity Respect For Animals, agrees that a boycott of anything Canadian is the only way forward to help end the slaughter.
“Canadian fish comes steeped in the blood of countless seals. Taking holidays in Canada and buying anything Canadian helps fuel the slaughter.”
All due credit must also go to those brave Canadian citizens themselves who oppose the seal culls and who are distressed at the fact that ever-growing numbers of Americans, Brits and Europeans are starting to see their nation as greedy, opportunistic and uncivilized — which, if Canada keeps sanctioning these awful seal culls, it is.
It is time we realized that it is the fault of humans, not seals, that stocks of cod are beginning to dwindle. It is we who are overfishing. It is time to stop murdering innocent animals simply because it’s convenient to put the onus on them for a depressed economy in the Canadian Maritimes. This has absolutely nothing to do with Canada’s indigenous population — the Inuits — as they have their own province, Nunavut, and govern themselves. Their way of life is in no way threatened by ceasing the seal cull. After all, if you look at those doing the killing, they are nearly always white, not Inuit, men.
Could it be that Canada is not quite the hippy-dippy utopia others so often make it out to be? Having waged a prolonged war against one of its own native mammals, how could it be?
We can stop this massacre on Canada’s Atlantic seaboard. We can force Ottawa to realize their mistake in approving and financing this evil trade and to reverse legislation in favor of the fishermen. But, we must also make it clear to the Canadians that this must be the last time they ever try anything like this, because they will only wait another decade and try it again. This time, we must hammer the final nail into the coffin of the Canadian seal culls.
The only question is, can most of the world stop their anti-American, anti-war protests long enough to consider protesting another source North American sponsored brutality?