Friday, March 19, 2010

Seal Hunt Quotas on the Rise...

After that last Blog Entry, I don't want to get accused of picking on misguided militants more than those carrying out widespread systematic violence toward animals. So...

Here's the latest news on the Canadian seal hunt from AFP:

OTTAWA — Canada's fisheries minister on Monday hiked the total number of seals that hunters would be allowed to slaughter during an annual Atlantic coast hunt set to begin later this month.

The total allowable catch for harp seals this season will rise to 330,000, from 280,000 last year, while quotas for grey and hooded seals will remain unchanged at 50,000 and 8,200 animals, respectively.

The reason cited by officials for the increased quota is a growing seal population in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and in waters east of Newfoundland.

"This government is united in its support of the thousands of coastal Canadian sealers who rely on the seal hunt for their livelihood," Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said in a statement.

"The seal hunt is a sustainable activity based on sound conservation principles."

The estimated populations of the grey and hooded seal herds are over 300,000 and 600,000 respectively and "continue to grow every year."

The harp seal population, meanwhile, is estimated at 6.9 million "or more than triple what it was in the 1970s."

Around 6,000 Canadians take part in seal hunting each year along the Atlantic coast, and 25 percent of their sales came from exporting products to Europe.

The 27 European Union states in July 2009 adopted a ban on seal products, ruling the goods could not be marketed from 2010.

Canada and Greenland account for more than 50 percent of the 900,000 seals slain in the world each year. Other seal-hunting countries include Norway, Namibia, Iceland, Russia and the United States.

I hear Canadians say, over and over again, that it's wrong to oppose the seal hunt because people rely on it for their livelihood. OK, point well taken.

But far, far more whites in the American South relied on slavery for their livelihood in the 19th Century. They made the same arguments: Abolish it and the result will be a disaster for the poor souls (in this case, poor white souls) whose well-being and survival depend on it.

Similarly, today, if the cocaine trade were wiped out, numerous villages in Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador that survive on the cocaine economy would be decimated economically. Same thing with villages in Afghanistan if heroin and opium were suddenly stamped out. A lot of struggling Afghans who rely on the heroin and opium trades would be hurt. But that doesn't legitimize those trades; it merely shows that when you get rid of some sort of lucrative economic resource, the results can be very painful and difficult for ordinary people. But the alternative of maintaining immoral industries is deeply troubling.

I am sympathetic to the people who rely on seal hunting for a living. There is no denying, however, that the practice itself is ghastly and brutal.

The seal hunt rivals factory farming in its barbarism. I don't advocate throwing pies at Gail Shea or blood at people who wear fur, and I certainly think many of the anti-seal hunt types - who traipse into Canada to protest and traipse out again - have been insensitive to the plight of the seal hunters. But I agree - 100 percent - with those who believe that this is a cruel practice.

That said, it's no crueler than manufacturing leather products. It all comes from the same place.

When I think of these things, I'm reminded of a Wisconsin serial killer named Ed Gein (1906 - 1984), who made all kinds of crafts out of the remains of the people he butchered. When police finally caught him, they found lampshades made of skin, human skulls on bedposts, scalps sewn together to make slipcovers, and various objects made of human bones.

Such discoveries shocked the world. Maybe the day will come when the way we currently use animals will prove equally shocking to future generations.

Then again, maybe not. I don't always have a hell of a lot of faith in human beings.

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