Seal Appeal

September 16, 2011

Rheanna Sand


Despite the abundance of space news this week, like the discovery of the first exoplanet in a binary star system (insert tired Star Wars/Tatooine reference here) or the harrowing Soyuz capsule landing for two Russians and one American cosmonaut, I choose to rant today.

In 2010, under heavy pressure from animal rights groups, the EU decided to ban the import of Canadian seal products. In trying to protect the livelihood of thousands of traditional seal hunters, the industry appealed the ruling, but the appeal was struck down on Wednesday. Admittedly, the industry didn't have much hope that it would succeed, and there are other legal challenges being pursued by the Canadian Government within the World Trade Organization that may be more fruitful, but this decision still makes me shake my head.

I consider myself a staunch animal rights advocate. I have a cat from the humane society. I give to Jane Goodall. I can't watch SPCA commercials without shedding a tear. But in a cruel twist of fate, biologists like me typically have to use animals in our research, and we do so with the utmost respect and care. The reality is that if we want to keep making scientific advances, we must use animals.

And the reality is, people eat meat. People use animal products. People hunt and kill. But why punish those hunters who take only what is needed to keep the ecosystem in balance? Those who are trained to kill seals in a way deemed "acceptably humane" by the Canadian Veterinary Journal? Those who use virtually the entire carcass for one purpose or another? Those who respect the creature so much they hold it in reverence?

Would these so-called "animal rights" groups rather we force seals into farms, where they can be overcrowded, subject to disease and infection, and hidden from view? Sealers do their work out in the open, where everyone can see the unpleasantness of our carnivorous lifestyle. Can the same be said of the poultry, beef, or pork industries? There is no doubt that anti-sealing groups would also like to eliminate the livestock industry, but I argue that a more realistic goal would be to make the livestock industry more like sealing. Take only so much, respect the land and water, and use the entire animal.

If I wasn't so adverse to seafood, I would pull a Michaelle Jean and eat some seal heart right now, just to show solidarity with the native communities who rely so heavily on this well-regulated and sustainable industry. Well, maybe not, but I think you get my point.

If you want more information, check out this excellent FAQ from CBC. And comments are most welcome, for or against!



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