Allegations of mass animal cruelty in Atlantic Canada have been flooding in from around the world. Pressure groups in the US, Britain, Japan and several European countries are introducing a blanket boycott on Canadian imports, such as salmon, cheese and maple syrup.
The public outcry has arisen over Canada’s annual seal cull, which takes place largely in Newfoundland. The cull targets over 300 000 animals (killed with guns and often clubs) so that fish populations may be preserved for the maritime fishermen and native populations who depend on marine life for food and livelihood.
Following massive worldwide protests in the 1970s, Canadian law was changed to make the slaughter of baby seals illegal, something that most modern-day protestors are not satisfied with. Whether the seals are young or old, the fact remains that, according to a 2001 veterinarian report, half of the seals are conscious while being skinned.
The Independent on Sunday has just run a story entitled, “ Canada defends seal cull while world calls for a trade boycott.” The article features a large colour photo of a man, club poised in an intimidating way over the head of a small and obviously distressed seal. Is this what the world thinks of when you say, “I am Canadian”? It sure is now! So much for wearing the flag and feeling secure in the knowledge that nobody will mistake you for an American and hate you.
Naturally, to put on the defensive for my homeland, I first moved to defend native’s rights in this debacle. I have stated clearly that this cull is merely part of an Arctic cultural tradition. It has been happening for centuries, if not a thousand years. The seal hunt is and always has been important to the Arctic people who may have little access to fresh food throughout the year. As well, it is important to maritime fishermen who have latched onto the seal cull as a way to maintain fishery stocks from depletion.
On second thought, however, why should I defend such a barbaric custom? People need to eat. I cannot fathom turning our whole country into vegetarians with one protest. But, there is just no good reason to club any animal to death. Nor is there reason to kill an animal and leave the carcass to rot. I am therefore joining the boycott, but I do so reluctantly. Canada needs to listen to the world, just as every other controversial nation should do. How can we judge others if we cannot take criticism constructively? The Canadian economy stands to jeopardize over $3.5 billion in seafood trade to the United States only if a compromise cannot be reached.
Lean, G.; Owen, J.; and Woolf, M. (2006, March 19). Canada defends seal cull while world calls for a trade boycott. The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved from http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article352201.ece
IFAW (March 2001). Veterinary Report Canadian Commercial Seal Hunt Prince Edward Island.
http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw/dfiles/file_95.pdf (requires Acrobat free pdf reader)