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Canada’s shame

Written By: - Date published: 9:06 am, March 27th, 2008 - 21 comments
Categories: activism, Environment, International - Tags: , ,

seals.JPGFor those of you who saw the title and thought this post was about Celine Dion, sorry, it’s about the seal cull. 

Every year Canada kills and skins hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals, leaving their bodies to rot. The seal cullers’ favoured tool is the vicious hakapik a long pole with a sharp spike intended to destroy the seal’s brain but which often fails to kill the animal, meaning it is skinned alive.

Why does Canada slaughter seals in such barbaric fashion?

The trade in seal skins generates relatively little revenue, $24 million a year, and the cost of the cull on far-flung ice floes freezing temperatures means it is barely profitable. In fact, the Canadian government has to assist the cull by using its icebreakers to clear seaways to make it worthwhile. Canadian fishermen claim that if there weren’t a cull the seals would eat too many of their fish, which makes you wonder what the seals survived on before the fishermen arrived. We are even told that if not for the cull over-population would see seals would starve to death; so much kinder to skin them alive.

Canada’s shame is that there is no good reason for the seal cull. Like Japan’s archaic whale-hunt, the seal cull is in reality nothing more than a testament to the power of lobby groups in important electorates and bloody-minded adherence to tradition. And like Japan, Canada’s otherwise spotless international reputation bares a bloody stain for it.

The EU is set to ban the import of seal products (most of the Canadian skins pass through Europe on the way to Russia and China). This may be the death-knell of the seal fur trade and the cull. For Canada’s sake, let’s hope it is.


21 comments on “Canada’s shame”

  1. Not often we see eye-to-eye Steve, but I’m with you on this one. The barbarity of the seal cull shown on the news the other night was shocking, and pretty much indefensible. If there IS a good reason for the slaughter of seal cubs, and I’m not convinced that there is, surely there is a more humane method than clubbing them to death.

  2. Why is it bad to kill baby seals and not other animals? Is it because other animals are not as furry and cute and nice to look at?

    I’m sure if their was some butt ugly Lizard from Africa that was getting slaughtered, all these animal rights groups from the far left wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

    I guess its okay to kill something that is ugly, but leave the pretty animals alone.

    I mean when was the last time you saw Greenpeace having a picture of the Endangered Lizard from Kenya.

    They wouldn’t get enough money in donations from that, to carry out their so called legal activities.

    By the way, I love a good steak, so this is not some vegetarian rant from some wacko, just asking a legit question.

  3. Scribe 3


    Is there likely to be a follow-up post on “New Zealand’s shame”, outlining the 18,000-odd HUMAN BEINGS suffering this same fate every year? And with an explicit photo alongside?

    Or are baby seals infinitely more important than unborn human babies?

    Just curious.

  4. “Why is it bad to kill baby seals and not other animals? Is it because other animals are not as furry and cute and nice to look at?”

    Empathy comes into. Emanuel Kant called it “circles of moral concern”. The more alike we feel to a species the more we empathise with them. This is why we generally don’t like eating humans, chimpanzees, dolphins or other apes (generally animals which we consider to be “intelligent”). Seals do have a fairly human-looking face, so this is probably why many people are squeemish about the idea of killing and eating them.

    Hope that helps.

  5. Steve Pierson 5

    “I mean when was the last time you saw Greenpeace having a picture of the Endangered Lizard from Kenya.”

    Brett. you can’t expect people to provide pictures of hypothetical creatures that you made up for the sake of argument.

    Scribe. abortion is a tragedy but morally there is space between what most people regard as an ok way to end a potential human, contraception, and an a way most peple would not regard as ok, infanticide. Abortion sits between these two points – it should never be taken lightly and it would be great if it happened less but it is justifible on a number of grounds.

  6. Scribe-

    Abortion fits into the framework as well. Humans don’t feel much in common with the lump of non-sentient cells which is a 20 week old fetus. Which is probably why many people are comfortable with the idea.

  7. Should have been:

    “the non-sentient lump of cells that is a 20 week old fetus…..

  8. higherstandard 8


    It is a pity that more NZers aren’t more comfortable with contraception rather than abortion as both our STD rates and abortion rates would be decreasing rather than increasing.



  9. Steve Pierson 9

    hs. to be fair abortion is decreasing http://www.stats.govt.nz/products-and-services/hot-off-the-press/abortion-statistics/abortions-yedec06-hotp.htm (the 2007 figures aren’t there yet but I saw them in the paper the other day and they were lower again). interestingly, the decrease was attributed entirely to the reduction in the number of asian students studying here.

  10. I agree HS – but that’s a point of personal responsibility isn’t it? If you don’t want it to happen to you, use contraception.

    You may say, well “the tax payer shouldn’t have to fork out for the abortions” – but that’s a whole other debate..

    Also, maybe there’s a case to made for promoting feminism there as well. Our rape stats are truly horrifying – around 20% of NZ women have been raped (I have several friends who work for rape crisis). Their analysis (which I agree with) is that our culture encourages passivity in women, and misogyny in men, resulting in a culture which facilitates rape. Similarly, if women were less passive, and men were more respectful of women, there would be less of an STD problem (women would be more likely to assert their desire to use protection when the man doesn’t want to). Anyway, I’m sure there’s much more to it than this as well.

  11. Matthew Pilott 11

    Brett, I can sort of see what you’re getting at, although it would be better if you used a real example. At the end of the day, Humans have limited empathy – we can only care about so much. That’s why you get all these twats complaining that NZ is becoming ‘third world’ – they’ve forgotten the horrors of drought, famine and disease and think a traffic jam or slow broadband is equally as bad. but I digress.

    Greenpeace can’t save everything – do you think they should give up? If they are going to put a lot of effort into something it’s worth them doing it in an area that will garner public attention, support, and money. Lastly – give me an example equivalent to any Government authorising and supporting the imhumane slaughter of near a million infant (or otherwise) animals. Unlikely…

    P.s. based on what you said i would have though you were more carnivore than omnivore of vegetarian…!

  12. Steve Pierson 12

    roger. but should our morality rise above asethetics?

    I think the answer to Brett is that there is no Endangered Lizard cull and if there was it would also need to be justified, otherwise it would be opposed just like the whale hunt and the seal cull.

  13. Steve, I partially agree. You’ll notice though that I didn’t include any moral judgments in my explanation for why humans are often fine with killing and eating some animals, though not others.

    I’m a vegetarian in principal, but don’t really care that insects are shredded by harvesting machines whilst they collect the grain I eat. I guess my circle of moral concern just doesn’t go that far.

  14. Scribe 14


    Humans don’t feel much in common with the non-sentient lump of cells which is a 20 week old fetus. Which is probably why many people are comfortable with the idea.

    Check this out and tell me if this 20-week-old “foetus” has much in common with you or I. Or if it looks like a “non-sentient lump of cells”: http://www.birth.com.au/Info.asp?class=6731&page=5#

    That’s the stuff the abortionists don’t show women and girls before they choose to abort their son or daughter.


    to be fair abortion is decreasing

    The numbers have fluctuated a little bit in recent years, but NZ has the second-highest rate of abortions in the OECD. Any minor decrease in the raw number of abortions is also attributable to the over-the-counter availability of the morning-after pill, which I’m sure you’ll think is fine, but I oppose. That’s an argument for another day.

    And if anyone wonder if abortion is simply back-up contraception, ponders these numbers. In 2005, 1,236 women were having their third abortion, 383 their fourth, 101 their fifth, 28 their sixth and 10 their seventh. THIS IS A DISGRACE.

  15. Billy 15

    “I’m a vegetarian in principal (sic)…”

    Just not in practice?

    Cool. I’m going to adopt this: I am sober in principle. I am very good at sexual intercourse in principle.

  16. Hillary 16

    Why is the left which ususally advocates for the disadvantaged so blind when it comes to protecting unborn children?

  17. Scribe 17

    Great question Hillary. Maybe you’ll get an answer other than Roger Nome’s contention that babies at 20 weeks’ gestation are a “non-sentient lump of cells’, which the photo I’ve linked to above completely discredits.

    Maybe some of the abortion supporters on this blog could try answering this question: What miraculously happens to turn a “foetus” into a baby?

    Once they realise the answer is “it grows”, maybe the culture of death will start subsiding.

  18. higherstandard 18

    Hillary you might find this link informative for a perspective on the American left and abortion.


  19. Pascal's bookie 19

    Maybe some of the abortion supporters on this blog could try answering this question: What miraculously happens to turn a “foetus’ into a baby?

    Well I have no intention of getting into a drawn about debate about this, because I sense it would be pointless, but in my opinion nothing miraculous happens.

    Just biology. In my opinion 20 wk fetus is not a person, and it certainly isn’t a “baby”. (Important words include viabilty and sentience).

    Your statement that the only development a fetus goes through is “growth” is so bizzare that I suspect you don’t believe it yourself. I mean for a start even a very developed fetus gets nourishment through a cord attached to a woman, and it can’t breathe air. That’s pretty different from a baby.

    Either that or you believe that the numerous profound developments (like the growth of a brain) that a fetus goes through are far less important than some indefinable essence of personhood,(a soul if you like), that remains constant and is implanted at conception. If that’s the case, fine. But surely you must realise that that is opinion, and that reasonable folk can differ. If they do differ, and I assure you they do, why should your opinion be the deciding one, over the woman concerned. Your opinion counts when it’s your body.

    In 2005, 1,236 women were having their third abortion, 383 their fourth, 101 their fifth, 28 their sixth and 10 their seventh. THIS IS A DISGRACE.

    Well I for one would want some more information before passing judgement. Though I’m not entitled to that information because it is none of my fucking business. Maybe these women (and their partners) belong to one of those weird religions that believes contraception to be evil. Having an abortion is a lot easier to hide from your partner than taking the pill.

    Or maybe you are right and they are just ‘disgraceful’.

    Or maybe a bit of both, they belong to a disgraceful religion that believes contraception is evil and thinks they should be forced to get pregnant if they can’t keep their damn legs shut.

    Or maybe something else entirely.

    We don’t know and we are talking about people here Scribe, people making very personal decisions. Maybe some people you even know. Sorry to get moralistic, but making rash judgements about people without the facts is a bit disgraceful. IMHO

    Like I said I’m not interested in getting into a drawn out debate. The presuppositions aren’t shared and aren’t particularly malleable, so it only ever turns into a shouting match.

    I will however give some links, that if you want to read them, may give you a broader idea about what pro choice people think about prolife arguments and why they don’t think criminalising abortion is a good idea.

    This is about some stats around abortion rates, womens health and abortion law.


    This one talks about some common prolife arguments and wonders about consistency.


    At the end of the day scribe, if you think it’s murder, don’t have an abortion.

  20. Scribe 20


    Maybe these women (and their partners) belong to one of those weird religions that believes contraception to be evil. Having an abortion is a lot easier to hide from your partner than taking the pill.

    Um, I doubt if they adhere to what their church would say about contraception that they would think having an abortion is OK.


    Sorry for what has been a partial threadjack, but I do find the outrage at seal culling and apparent acceptance of abortion (not ascribing that sentiment to you) to be totally inconsistent.

  21. This must be different to the one that they stopped a few years back, with the resulting near-destruction of an indigenous community.

    What I heard was that they were allowed to start again to feed themselves, but then they weren’t allowed to sell the skins so they couldn’t pay for fuel etc that had to be imported.

    Just as well, that particular cause put some celebrities in a very bad light. It’s not a good look “protecting” a species whos numbers are increasing at the expense of driving the locals to drink.

    But this one must be different.

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