Canadian seal hunt information/misinformation

Spend any amount of time surfing the web for information about Canada’s annual seal hunt, and you will find statements such as:

  • The harvest is unsustainable and is endangering the harp seal population
  • The seal harvest provides such low economic return for sealers that it is not an economically viable industry.
  • The seal harvest is loosely monitored and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) doesn’t punish illegal hunting activity or practices.
  • The Canadian government allows sealers to harvest whitecoat seals.
  • There is no relationship between the seal population and the abundance of cod stocks.
  • Seals are being skinned alive
  • The club – or hakapik – is an inhumane tool that has no place in today’s world.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada provides subsidies for the seal harvest.
  • Canadian harvesting practices are worse and more inhumane compared to other countries.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has responses to those claims here, as well as a lot of other information about the seal harvest at their “Seals and Sealing in Canada” website.

13 Responses to “Canadian seal hunt information/misinformation”

  1. roger loseth says:

    funny thing is I worked in a hog slaughter facility for a year we killed 7200 hogs every day big jolt of electricty to stun them(yes stun not kill) then stick them in the jugular with what looks like a dagger and shackel them up by thier hind legs while thier heart is still pumping….killin seals is pretty tame compared to lotsa stuff I done

  2. Phil L says:

    Slaughterhouses are shielded from the public eye, and hogs are ugly, so the public doesn’t get worked up about them.

    The seal hunt is not a pretty job, but I believe it is sustainable and humane, so I support it.

  3. Toni says:

    If you’re going to kill large animals like pigs for consumption then it’s important to drain the blood out quickly. Leaving blood in reduces to to spoilage and can also taint the flavour. In the bad old days no-one would have bothered with the stunning, but *in theory* they shouldn’t be suffering, so although it looks nasty, it should be too bad.

    A lot of people might struggle with killing pigs if it were known to be done in the same way seals are killed, whether it really was less humane or not. I’ve not witnessed seal killing first hand, so I can’t say whether it’s done humanely or otherwise, although it’s awfully reliant on the killer being skilled.

  4. Toni says:

    That should say “reduces TIME to spoilage”.

  5. Toni says:

    I seem to be having typing failure today.

  6. Phil L says:

    I believe that the pigs in the slaughterhouse that Roger worked in were killed humanely. However it must have appeared horrific. Perception is what matters most to a lot of folks. That’s why the anti-sealing groups often accompany their literature and websites with pictures of whitecoat baby seals with their big imploring eyes, even though it’s been illegal to hunt them for more than a quarter-century.

  7. roger loseth says:

    or how about watchingmy Dad or Grampa chop the heads off chickens or how bout watching me club a trapped coyote etc. Phil is right public perception is screwy.Now in the US they’ve banned the slaughter of horses cause horses are pretty yet hogs and cattle are veiwed as ugly so its ok to kill them

  8. Toni says:

    So out of interest, are cubs no longer killed then, or just the whitecoat variety? And are the adults normally shot as the wikipedia article suggests, or do they get bludgeoned?

    As for killing animals, I don’t have a problem provided it’s done for a useful purpose (sport=entertainment is not a useful purpose, but if you eat your kill then that’s useful) and it’s done in a way that doesn’t cause detectable suffering. Thus chopping the heads off (or wringing the necks of) chickens etc is fine. You’ll have to make your own decision about the coyote.

    If I hit an animal while driving then I’ll despatch it, rather than leave it suffering by the roadside (when times have been tough we’ve been glad of the meat, too).

  9. Phil L says:

    It’s my understanding that the laws forbid the killing of pups that are reliant on their mothers. As well as being weaned, they have also moulted (hence no whitecoats).

    It’s also my understanding that they can’t be bludgeoned. Rifles or hakipiks must be used. Unlike a club, the hakipik is an instrument that causes death quickly (verified by independent veterinarians).

    Lots of info at the link given in my post above. Lots of contrary info available on the Internet. I guess it’s obvious which info I think is most reliable.

  10. Toni says:

    The Wiki on the Hakapik seemed to line up with what you said – apparently no obvious misinformation there then.

    You seem pretty focussed on this one, Phil – has someone been getting at you?

  11. Phil L says:

    Good question Toni … I live in a prairie province so why am I so interested in this issue?
    I guess I see it as the thin edge of a wedge. Urbanites who either don’t understand the issue or deliberately distort the issue are taking steps to ban this sustainable, humane harvest. The European ban on Canadian seal products, while they overlook the force-feeding of geese for pate, and abuse of calves for veal production, I find hypocritical. (Horse meat continues to be a popular culinary choice in France but I’m not calling for economic sanctions against them despite my cultural resistance to the thought of eating horses).
    Once the anti-hunting people have managed to ban the seal hunt, they will move on to other hunts, including those that I’m involved in (grouse, deer, moose, elk), not to speak of the entire fur trade which I’m not involved in but have friends who make a significant part of their income from.
    I stand in solidarity with my east-coast brothers and sisters. Natural resource management decisions should be based on sound science, not Hollywood emotionalism.

  12. Toni says:

    Out of interest, are you personally opposed to eating horses (horse meat is a little disappointing BTW) or just referring to the cultural preference of Canada? Yup, plenty of unpleasant ways of servicing specific food culture in Europe too.

    As for hunting, well, that’s a mixed bag of rights and wrongs, really. Lets just say I’m quite happy fox hunting with hounds is illegal here now.

  13. Marc says:

    Interesting stuff. Here’s what famous conservationist/ecologist Jacques Cousteau had this to say about the seal hunt: “”We have to be logical. We have to aim our activity first to the endangered species. Those who are moved by the plight of the harp seal could also be moved by the plight of the pig – the way they are slaughtered is horrible.” He said it was entirely an emotional issue. (From the Wikipedia article on the seal hunt).

    For some reason I find it amusing that Jacques Cousteay, the one “celebrity” who might actually have something legitimate to say about it, seems at best ambivalent. The host of other celebrities who as far as I know have never even seen a live seal (Kim Basinger? Pamela Anderson? Richard Dean Anderson? Paris Hilton?), much less know anything about the actual hunt are the ones who oppose it.

    Who knows. Maybe they’ve studied the subject.

    I see Farley Mowat opposes it. He might have something to say, I suppose.