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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 4/14/09

Oh, Canada: Stop the shameful seal slaughter

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If anyone wonders why animal rights groups speak out against Canada’s violent commercial seal slaughter year after year, I invite you to visit PETA’s blog, The PETA Files. There you’ll see a disturbing photo of a baby seal who was beaten and skinned for her fur. The seal’s skull has been smashed in, and the ice is red with her blood.


This, ladies and gentlemen, is the seal slaughter—and in the next few weeks, tens of thousands of seals just like the one in the photograph will meet the same gruesome fate.


If you’ve been following the animal rights movement since the 1970s, you no doubt remember the early days of the massive worldwide campaign to end Canada’s despicable slaughter of harp seals. Who can forget those heartbreaking ads showing fluffy white baby seals staring at the camera with their enormous eyes?


Public outcry forced Canada to ban the killing of “whitecoats” in 1987, and the seal slaughter essentially collapsed. But in 1996, all that changed when the Canadian government began subsidizing the massacre in an effort to rebuild it. It has since grown almost every year and is now the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world. This year alone, hunters will be allowed to kill more than 338,000 seals.


Canadian officials should have let the seal slaughter die a natural death.


While hunters are no longer allowed to kill “whitecoats,” they can club and shoot baby seals as soon as the animals begin to molt their white natal fur—about 12 days after they’re born. Yes, seals can legally be killed before they are even 2 weeks old—before they have eaten their first solid meal or taken their first swim.


The difference between bashing in the head of a 12-day-old seal and bashing in the head of a 13-day-old seal is lost on most people.


Not surprisingly, opposition to the seal slaughter is once again growing. In the U.S., the sale of seal fur has been banned since 1972. Belgium and the Netherlands have passed laws banning the importation of seal fur, and the European Union is considering similar legislation. In early March, a European Parliament committee voted in favor of a bill that would ban the importation of all seal products (with an exception made for Canada’s Inuit hunters). The full parliament is expected to vote on the bill as early as April.


Canada isn’t taking this lying down, of course. In an effort to make the slaughter seem more palatable, they’ve implemented new “humane standards,” including a requirement that sealers wait 60 seconds before skinning seals in order to “ensure” that they are dead. I’m sorry, but bludgeoning defenseless animals, impaling them on boat hooks, dragging them across the ice and ripping off their skins after a 60-second pulse check—assuming anyone is actually watching—does not fit any reasonable definition of “humane.” And the new regulations don’t require a speck of oversight.


With the approach of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the eyes of the world will soon be turning toward Canada. PETA will be working to make sure that some of that focus shifts from Canada’s “games” to Canada’s shame. Killing sentient animals for something as selfish as fur can never be justified.


But the very least that we can do is end the sickening spectacle of the seal slaughter once and for all. It should have been banned long ago.


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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with 6.5 million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world. PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the (more...)

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