The sun is shining, the trees are flowering, the grass is green and there is a warm breeze in the air. It’s spring, which means it’s that time of year again, when every dreaded self-righteous hippy in Europe starts lambasting Canada for the seal hunt.
First, a disclaimer: I have never and will never kill a baby seal. Contrary to public opinion about Canadians, I don’t keep a pick axe in my shed, and I don’t get off on the sight of baby seal blood splattered over snow.
Moreover, I give less of a shit about fashion than I do about which spoiled American princess is going to marry which inbred British prince. So certainly I’m not in favour of killing these animals for fashion accessories – as opposed to hunting them for warm clothing, a defensible necessity for many populations in Canada.
HowEVER, the international broo-hah-hah Canadians have to endure every damn year over the seal hunt really does get on my nerves. Having principles and standing up for them is one thing. Being hysterical about something, based on false ideals and misinformation and sentimentality, is another.
The European public has many misconceptions about the hunt (search around online and you’ll find many angry sites espousing these myths, and many angry sites attempting to debunk them).
The seals are not endangered. The populations are healthy – very healthy. There are more than five million of the animals. And the permitted number of kills this year was reduced by about twenty per cent, down to 270,000 from 335,000, in light of the fact that the sea ice is thin and many pups appear to be falling through the ice and drowning. And the animals killed are not whitecoats (the achingly cute, white suckling pups). I’m sure there are some stubborn fisherman who hunt them anyways, but the government has banned the killing of whitecoats. (Yet of course it is always photos of cute pups, like above, that animal rights groups use in their anti-seal hunt campaigns.)
And let’s not even start in on the fact that those who kill the seals are fishermen (many native) who are in far more need of the income than the white, affluent hippies and celebrities who can afford to hire a private plane to fly them out to the ice so they can shout obscenities at the men trying to earn a buck to feed their kids.
No matter what way you cut it, the public uproar over the hunt is not over genuine concern for the environment. It’s over cuteness.
How many seal hunt protesters give a shit about – have even HEARD of – the critically endangered American burying beetle, the Chinese paddlefish, or the Alabama cave shrimp?
Sometimes even cute animals on the brink of extinction don’t get the attention they deserve. Most people had never heard of the baiji – the Yangtze river “dolphin” – before it disappeared. Even now that it has gone extinct, and the story has made news headlines, I don’t see any hippies clamouring to save it’s Indian counterpart, which is also critically endangered – and far more unique than harp seals (although considerably less cute).
It’s not that I’m pro-baby-seal-killing. I’m just pro-picking-the-right-fucking-battles.
… ah forget it. I’m sure that no matter how sound my argument, no matter what I write, this post will prompt many of my vegetarian, tattooed, dreaded, haiku-writing friends to tell me off for my insensitivity.
So screw it.
Instead, I’ll just tell you my favourite joke about the seal hunt.
About ten years ago, somebody set up a big animation on a billboard in Picadilly Circus here in London. A cute seal fills the screen – then is bashed over the head with a club. The blood of the seal trickles down and forms the Canadian Flag. Then words form the phrase “Canada stop the murder” or something like that.
In response, the utterly brilliant Canadian news comedy show This Hour Has 22 Minutes proposed we erect our own sign:
SAVE THE MAD COW… BUT GET HER PICTURE OFF OUR MONEY.