Yesterday Carino Processing Ltd – Canada’s oldest and largest seal fur buyer – stated that the company has turned down $1 million in government funding for seal pelt purchases, noting that it already has pelts in storage that it cannot sell.
This is a very significant and forbidding development for the sealers, in the wake of $2 million of government financing pledged to Carino and one other processor to purchase seal products. We had anticipated sealers would rush to the ice floes to cash in on the government’s effort to keep the hunt alive, but the effect of the Carino decision is to put the brakes on much of the sealing. Even Eldridge Woodford, the president of the Canadian Sealers Association, stated yesterday that, for the first time in 20 years, he won’t participate in the seal slaughter because of the lack of buyers for seal products.
Carino, a Norwegian-owned, Newfoundland-based company, has been the backbone of the commercial sealing industry over the past five decades, purchasing the skins of more than one million clubbed and shot baby seals in that time. Carino’s announcement, paired with its acknowledgement that it is warehousing a stockpile of seal fur it has been unable to sell, demonstrates that even increased government largesse, on top of other efforts to prop up the hunt, cannot keep it from foundering.
As a result of this announcement, the closing of markets throughout the world, and the devaluing of pelts because of the glut in supply of the product, the killing season of seals has gotten off to an exceptionally slow start – and that’s a good thing. The Canadian government confirms that sealers have killed about 2,000 animals in the first two days of the sealing season – a decade ago, that number would have been closer to 100,000.
In 2008, there were reportedly five companies processing the skins of clubbed and shot baby seals year round. But in 2009, our documented evidence of cruelty in the commercial seal hunt helped convince the European Union to join the United States in banning the commercial seal product trade. Seal fur prices in Canada crashed and kill levels plummeted correspondingly.
Since then, more key markets, including Russia and Taiwan, have closed their borders to the primary products of the commercial seal hunt, and prices for seal fur have remained low. As a result, in the past few years alone, more than 1.8 million baby seals have been spared a horrible fate.
The only processor buying seal fur this year is a new enterprise, PhocaLux International. The company is claiming that it is in the process of developing new markets for seal products in China. Yet, after more than three decades of taxpayer funded, multi-million dollar efforts to promote seal products there, China has never materialized as an important market for the sealing industry.
Encouraging fishermen to make economic decisions based on empty promises serves no one but the executives of the seal processing plants. It is time for the Canadian and Newfoundland governments to transition to a humane economy and stop wasting taxpayers’ money on the outdated, globally condemned slaughter of baby seals.