Thursday, November 16, 2006

80. Seal hunt is barbaric

One of my biology professors in college talked about the prejudice against insects. As an etymologist, he loved insects with an affection, that, by in large, I do not share. They are interesting, but my curiosity is limited to their ecological impact. What I did take to heart was the bias towards, as he described, "furry animals with big brown eyes." I do not doubt the bias exists, as evident from a very early age at birthdays and holidays with every teddy bear sold. Our affection for these mammals is almost universal, as dogs, not crickets, are man's best friend.

There is probably not an animal that exemplifies the prejudicial description of "furry animals with big brown eyes," more than baby seals. These animals are an endearing spectacle of snow white fur and large, distinct brown eyes. It is here where the almost universal affection for theses animals ends, at least from the perspective of Canadian fisherman who hunts these animals for their fur.

I am certain that over 90 percent of the population would react in absolute horror if they were to witness the clubbing of a baby seal to death. Further, the act is so harsh that it would traumatize most young children. In response to the outrage across the world, in which hundreds of thousands have protested this practice by boycotting Canadian seafood, the Canadian government has moved, not to end the act, but rather to prohibit the filming of it.

The hunt is described this way by The Humane Society of the United States, who has led this campaign:

Canada's annual seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet. This year the Canadian government allowed fishermen to club and shoot more than 330,000 seals in the North Atlantic-almost all of them babies as young as 12 days-just to earn a few extra bucks by selling seal skins. Last year, 98.5% of the seals killed were two months of age or younger, and veterinary reports indicate that many seals have been skinned while still conscious and able to feel pain.

Fisherman often use wooden clubs or shakapiks (large ice-pick-like clubs) to beat the animals to death, rather than shoot them, because they are paid $2.00 less for every bullet hole in the skin. And if they are shot, they are only shot once, and then left or dragged along to die. There is a small market for seal oil, but none for the meat. The seals are killed almost exclusively for their furs, with their carcasses discarded after skinning. Seal hunting is an off-season activity and is relatively economically irrelevant to the overall business of Canadian fisherman. This is widely accepted as a cruel and unnecessary act.

To participate in the fight against the killing of baby seals, consumers are encouraged not to patron restaurants that serve Canadian seafood and, of course, not to purchase clothing made of fur. Designers using this fur include Gucci and Versace. It is only through economic pressure that the Canadian government will be motivated to end or severely limit this practice.

It is an unfortunate fact that in nature animals must die for others to survive. However, the death of an animal usually occurs so that another can survive, not so the elites among us can wear their fur. Those that parade around in animal fur need to understand the often tragic and horrific circumstance in which that fur was obtained. From the perspective of animal lovers and those that appreciate nature, there hardly seems to be a more deplorable act than the brutal slaughter of unsuspecting baby seals.

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