Historic Crossroads for Seals

By on April 18, 2008 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

©The HSUS/Marcus Gyger
Alternatives to the seal slaughter make more sense.

We’ve known for a long time that Canada’s mass seal slaughter makes no moral sense. In looking at the revenue generated by the kill, and the many costs associated with it, we now know it makes no economic sense. No sense at all, in fact.

Given these moral and economic realities, it’s no surprise that people in Canada and throughout the world are demanding an end to this reprehensible slaughter. I’ve asked Rebecca Aldworth, our director of Canadian issues, to offer additional perspective on these questions:

Over the ten years I’ve witnessed the annual slaughter of baby seals in Canada, what has frustrated me most is that the killing is not only inhumane, it’s completely needless.

Economists have repeatedly concluded that the commercial seal kill costs Canada’s economy nearly as much—or more—than it brings in. In 1997, Professor Clive Southey found that the seal kill provided the equivalent of only 150 fulltime jobs, and that Canadian taxpayers were subsidizing those jobs to the tune of $30,000 each. At the time, many people began to ask why we didn’t just pay the sealers to stay home.

The Canadian Coast Guard during the 2008 seal slaughter.

Today, a National Post article detailed the hidden costs posed by the seal slaughter to Canadians—including millions of dollars for Coast Guard icebreaking and search and rescue services, government funded delegations to Europe and the United States to lobby on behalf of the sealing industry, and the economic losses resulting from the HSUS ProtectSeals boycott of Canadian seafood products. With the value and volume of Canadian seafood exports to the United States in a serious decline, it is clear that the boycott alone has cost the Canadian economy many times what the seal slaughter is worth.

And even as the costs resulting from the seal hunt escalate, the revenue generated by killing seals is falling. This year, the low prices offered for the skins of baby seals convinced many sealers to stay home. They said the low returns this year wouldn’t allow them to break even if they participated in the hunt. Canadian media has just confirmed that European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas intends to ban imports of seal products in the European Union—a move many believe will cause the prices to plummet further, and potentially spell the end of the commercial seal slaughter.

Now, Canadian politicians are speaking out about the senseless situation. Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, issued a statement yesterday calling for an end to the commercial seal hunt. She said it brings in few economic returns, risks human lives, and costs Canadians too much in subsidies.

The Canadian government is at a historic crossroads. It can continue this slaughter in the face of global condemnation, costing the Canadian economy far more than the sealing industry will ever contribute, and causing the suffering and deaths of millions of defenseless wild animals. Or it can live up to Canada’s progressive reputation by ending the slaughter and providing a generous compensation package for sealers.

Common sense and humanity demand the latter.

Humane Society International

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