Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] NMOC - Enemies of Sustainability

Michael Blackwood blackwood_michael at hotmail.com
Wed Oct 6 07:13:19 MDT 2004

Bruce wrote:

>PS: Julian, isn't an ethical society one which also places a premium value 
>on the dignity and >availability of meaningful work? I'm not disagreeing 
>with you about treating animals well, >but "finding a balance is a very 
>complicated issue. I agree that fox hunting is a pompous and >intolerable 
>'sport' which should be banned outright. But seal hunting (which is more 
>brutal) is not >so cut-and-dried IMO, given the devastation a ban visits on 
>a community.

And, as the token Newfoundlander on the list, I have to chime in here about 
the seal hunt.  The only species serously hunted (ie for commerical reasons, 
not subsistence) is the Harp Seal.  Currently, the 
Newfoundland/Labrador/Greenland harp seal heard is the largest wild mammal 
herd in the northern hemisphere, at at least 4 million animals, and possibly 
up to 6 million.  Each adult female has a pup each year or two, and with 
that in mind Canada's current small hunt is sustainable in perpetuity, and 
could even be sustainably expanded.

Historically, the ENTIRE carcass was usable, but public outcry has soured 
the markets.  The pelts have obvious value, seal blubber is rentered into 
seal oil, which is a great dietary supplement, and the meat was eaten by 
locals or exported in cans.  The bones were usable as fertilizer.  This is a 
very valuable resource that has been crippled as an income source for rural 
coastal communities.

IN THE PAST, pups were taken for their white fur, but this is no longer the 
case, and hasn't been for 20 years.  In the 19th century when the industry 
began in Newfoundland (then an independant country, we didn't join Canada 
until 1949), the main product was oil for industrial use, with pelts being 
sold to furriers and the meat being the first fresh meat in rural diets 
after a long winter.  (Seal is still a cultural heritage meal in 
Newfoundland, and if we were a visible minority, or didn't speak English, I 
doubt the PC crowd would have been so quick to call us barbarians for our 

Is the seal hunt violent?  Yes, but in exactly the same way that the 
"processing" of cattle in a slaughterhouse is violent.  Seals, Cats & Dogs 
are the 3 branches of the Order Carnivora, and as such we respond to the 
"cuteness" of seals because their faces remind us of common pets.  When a 
poor unloved cow is done in with a quick blow to the head behind a brick 
wall in a slaughterhouse, no one threatens sanctions on beef-producing 
countries.  Canada faces sanctions because we treat the seals like cattle.  
The difference is that seals are "cute" and killed against a backdrop of 
white, which makes for great heart-wrenching TV.  The film in the 1970's 
that was produced in Montreal showing a sealer skinning a seal alive was 
later revealed to have been staged, with the film crew bribing a hunter into 
doing that for the camera.  The modern hunt is VERY well regulated by the 
federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and all sealers must pass 
stringent qualifications to get their licenses.  Sure, a rare few may turn 
out to be assholes, but that's like saying that because SOME deer hunters 
get drunk in the woods and shoot at anything that moves, ALL hunters are 
redneck barbarians.  Basically, the seal hunt is still portrayed as 
unsustainable barbarism solely because promising to STOP the hunt is a great 
fundraising tool for various groups that at best are thnking with their 
hearts and not their heads, and placing the value of "cuteness" over the 
value of a centuries-old way of life.

hold together,
Mike "expects he'll get flamed for this" Blackwood

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