At the beginning of April 2021 Canada’s commercial seal hunt was officially declared open with an allowable catch of 400,000 harp seals, the largest marine mammal slaughter on earth.
Every year, roughly half a million seals worldwide are subjected to painful and long lasting deaths; seal hunting is currently practised in ten countries: United States (above the Arctic Circle in Alaska), Canada, Namibia, Denmark (in self-governing Greenland only), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden.
But while some licences are for the sake of the livelihoods of the indigenous populations, most of the world’s seal hunting is for trade and this industry takes place in Canada.
Canada has, as a matter of fact, become the center of the sealing debate because of the comparatively large size of its hunt, again, the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet.
The main reason of this massacre is the fashion industry: seals are killed for their fur, used to make clothes or garments.
Surely there is a small market for seal oil, primarly handled for industrial purposes and partially for human consumption.
There isn’t a big market for the seal meat, and that’s why seal carcasses are normally left to rot on the ice, but despite this general feeling and news reporting that seal meat is not the main reason, the consumption of seal meat is still promoted and encouraged in Canada.
Harp seals are the primary target of this commercial seal hunt, and to a much smaller extent, hooded seals are also killed.
97 percent of the harp seals killed are pups under just three months of age.
The Canadian Government halted the slaughter of so-called “whitecoats” in 1987, but harp and gray seals lose their white fur at around two weeks of age, so most seals can still be shot or clubbed to death before they reach their first month of life.
The fact that corporations often go beyond national regulations and international agreements is also evident in this issue: some Norwegian companies for example, purchase close to 80% of the sealskins produced in Canada, they tan and re-export the skins and they also receive significant financial assistance from the Norwegian government.
In 2009, the European Union restricted the placement of all seal products on the market exempting those hunted by the indigenous communities.
When challenged by Canada and Norway, the World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld the EU ban, the first and the biggest dispute settlement on the basis of animal welfare, and at the present time there are 36 international trade bans on seal products across the globe, which include 27 Member States of the EU.
These bans have been estimated to have helped to decrease the commercial hunt by 90%, saving the lives of nearly four million seal pups.
But the way to evade these regulations is easy to find.
Like in Sweden, where they are permitted to hold legal seal hunts. How? Simply letting people shoot and kill thousands of seals of 3 different species (harbour seals, ringed seals and grey seals). Precisely, the annual killing quota is 3,300, and they are also inviting trophy hunters, Swedes as well as foreigners, to pay for hunts that can be done from rocks, islands and even boats.
This is perfectly legal in Sweden and the EU because the products are not commercially sold. It’s perfectly legal to kill, but not to sell the by-products of the kill; even if some hunting companies make money preserving the skin so the hunters can bring it home as a trophy.
The question around this hunt stays controversial because it involves the lives and the culture of some indigenus populations around the globe who advocate their rights to survive and to not be involved, with their small numbers of hunted animals, in worldwide data that obviously results in this hunt being referred to as a massacre.
It is a complicated issue, and we must all admit it, to save the opportunity of taking the right decision or just stepping in with a fair position.
What is not controversial is that many big corporations often hide themselves behind disgusting greenwashing marketing operations that disguise and distract people from their bad environmental behaviour.
So we have huge fossil fuels companies “committed” to stopping the whale hunt while they are destroying those whales’ habitat by fracking in the seabed and dumping chemicals into the oceans.
This evil process is so commonly formed of companies who contribute to filling us up with fake news for the sake of their profits: according to the Canadian Sealers Association, for example, there is an overpopulation of seals that is having a serious impact on important fish species in Newfoundland and Labrador and throughout Atlantic Canada.
Actually, indigenous people have been watching over and protecting amazing parts of our Planet for thousands of years and their pure approach to life deserves to be respected together with the animals living around them.
The melting of glaciers and the declining numbers of polar bears and seals in Northern Canada, for example, is the clear responsibility of the wealthy suite and tie people, and those people are not the Inuits, who are actually on the same side as the environmentalists around the world, playing a frontline role in the fight for a better world.
A role that is more dangerous than ours, writing this article, and yours, reading it.
We can all stop the exploitation of seals, and in the sole interest of living beings we can make an effort to have a better and wider knowledge about these issues, and doing so we can face the capitalist part of them.
This is a massacre because of the non-stop consumerism that pushes people to buy a seal fur coat or a duck feather jacket made by underpaid workers while they could have the same clothes with natural and recyclable materials produced without harming workers’ rights or animals’ lives.
It’s only up to this rampant, insatiable greed for big numbers that the market develops a need of killing these animals in such a horrible way, and making it legal.
In fact, according to the Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations the hunters have a right to kill seals with a choice of wooden clubs, hakapiks (large ice-pick-like clubs) and guns.
The main sealskin processing plants in Canada deduct money from the price they pay for the skins for each bullet hole they find, that’s why the sealers don’t shoot seals more than once: if they don’t kill them immediately with the first shot, they let them die suffering in agony.
All in the name of Consumerism.
Obedience to markets.
Slavery to money.
And it can be stopped.
Cover photo: Ville Miettinen from Helsinki, Finland, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Baby_fur_seal,_South_Georgia.jpg