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The Deception Behind Canada's Commercial Sealing

1233 words - 5 pages

For as long as humans lived in Atlantic and Northern Canada, seals were hunted for food, clothing, tools, and cultural customs. Seal hunts still take place off the Newfoundland coast, near the Magdalene Islands, the Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Inuit regions every spring for rural communities and commercially to provide part-time employment for fishermen. Commercial hunts occurring only for money differ from traditional hunts and lack the respect for seals. Many individuals take offense to the gruesome sight of sealing, and in 2010 the European Union banned all seal product imports, excluding products from Aboriginal hunts, causing low demand in the seal market. Amidst the controversy, ...view middle of the document...

In an industry where the principal market is for fur, much of the other parts are rendered useless; the Memorial University of Newfoundland (2006) found that 80% of seal blubber is discarded, which is traditionally essential for Inuit meals. In addition, the competitive nature of the sealing industry makes the capture sloppier. By shooting in open water or clubbing on the edge of ice, wounded seals can slip into the ocean and become a complete waste—an average of 26 000 seals each year are struck and lost (Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada [DFO] 2006). By claiming that the seal population is healthy, supporters of the commercial seal hunt exclude that it is an inefficient use of seal, a deep contrast to traditional sealing. Arguing that commercial sealing is just as environmental as traditional ways blurs the distinction between the two, but an analysis reveals their social differences as well.

Sealing in many Atlantic and Northern communities dates back to thousands of years, therefore it is crucial to keep the heritage alive. However, the Canadian Government argues that commercial sealing is essential to maintain “cultures [and] traditions” (as cited in CBC News 2013), which could not be further from the truth. Commercial duties involve killing the seal, sometimes skinning it, and then the animal is sent to a processing company and the sealer receives a paycheck. This is nothing like the traditional hunt that honours everything, not just the act of killing. Therefore a ban on the commercial hunt would not affect any traditions, but give peace to those concerned over its humaneness, an ongoing issue. As a response to criticism, in 2009 the Marine Mammal Regulations enacted a three-step process to kill seals that includes using a club, Hikapik, or rifle to stun, palpating the skull to ensure it is crushed, and draining the seal of blood so it is dead before cutting it open. However, the root cause of the EU ban is concern for the welfare of seals—video and picture evidence from a variety of organizations record sealers completely ignoring the three-step process. The DFO claims that the hunt is “tightly regulated”, but sealer Mark Small states “the DFO turns a blind eye to the activities taking place . . . there is no way [to] keep [work] up, do the job [they] want, and make sure that everything is carried out humanely” (as cited in Canada’s Commercial Seal Slaughter, 2009, p. 14-15). The slaughter of seals taking place not only generates controversy, but also creates a bad image—by claiming that commercial sealing is essential to keep heritage alive the Canadian Government improperly depicts traditional sealing as a slaughter. Banning the commercial hunt all together will satisfy the majority of Canadian’s that oppose...

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