Clubbing of Seals Lands Canadians Back in Hot Water

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 18, 2003 | Go to article overview

Clubbing of Seals Lands Canadians Back in Hot Water


Byline: Zachary A. Goldfarb, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Canadians are clubbing baby harp seals to death on the ice floes off Canada's northeastern coast, a practice that was sharply restricted in the 1980s, and animal rights activists are outraged.

The seals "look like very cute and cuddly animals in the white coat," said Steve Outhouse, a spokesman for Canada's Fishery and Oceans Ministry. "People forget they grow up to be 500-pound animals that destroy the livelihood of people and destroy fishermen's gear and nets, and a lot of the groundfish, such as cod, which is necessary for Newfoundland and Labradorians."

He said animal rights activists fail to mention that Canada closely regulates the seal harvest and that only one in 10 seals is clubbed; the rest are shot.

The issue, which brought boatloads and busloads of activists to seal-hunting country in the 1980s, surfaced again this spring when the Humane Society of the United States paid $65,000 for a full-page color ad that appeared Monday in the New York Times.Displaying a hunter about to club a seal, the ad called on Americans to boycott Canada until it bans "this senseless and barbaric killing."

"The point here is that the slaughter of these seals is a visible and worldwide symbol of the cruelty and destructiveness of people," said John Grandy, the Humane Society's executive vice president.

Dr. Grandy said the Humane Society, which wants Canada to ban seal hunting altogether, is trying to raise $3 million over three years to fight seal harvesting.

In February, Canada announced it would let up to 975,000 seals be killed during the next three years, irking animal rights activists even more.

Seals can be used for pelts, perfumes and other products. In some countries, seal meat is considered a delicacy.

Canada and some of its scientists yesterday disputed claims made by activists, saying they were overblown and inaccurate.

"This is not a conservation issue. This is an animal rights issue," said Ranson Myers, a biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Unlike the cod in the region, he said, seals are not in danger of steep declines in population.

Since the late 1970s, the Canadian seal population has grown from just under 2 million to more than 5 million. There is a ban on cod fishing in Newfoundland. …

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