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Thursday, April 26, 2007

You're so cute, I think I'll bash in your head

Well, except for that nasty business about how it's illegal to kill seal pups. They are so much cuter than the ones that actually get killed!

While we were in Florida, we saw a group of naked people standing near the road shouting at cars. It was the first time I'd ever seen such a thing. People don't strip for their pet causes in Name of Town Withheld. I was trying to size them up without being too obvious about it, because of course people who are naked don't want a lot of attention. I realized that they were holding signs that said I'd rather be naked than wear fur. Yuck. Suddenly I wasn't interested in looking at them, no matter how naked they were.

A few weeks ago, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to the mayors of all Canadian capitals, asking them to lower their flags to half-staff out of respect for the seals that will be killed during this year's commercial hunt off Newfoundland.

HAHAHAHAHA. I know, it's already hilarious.

The best part is that Iqaluit is one of the Canadian capitals. If you've never heard of Iqaluit, please watch this video a friend of mine made during a trip through town (it is less than one minute long):

So you can imagine how this letter went over in Iqaluit. (It's more fun to imagine how it went over in St. John's -- go, Danny, go! -- but I have a northern perspective these days.) Sealing has been a way of life in Nunavut and Newfoundland for hundreds of years.

Iqaluit city council reacted much more maturely than I would have. They invited PETA to visit the north to learn how anti-sealing campaigns hurt the Inuit.

As it turns out, this actually had some effect on the PETA spokesperson. When CBC called him, he said, "No one, not even PETA, has a quarrel with native people who truly have no choice but to hunt in order to survive."

Now, this is an interesting take. Because the Inuit don't NEED to take part in the commercial seal hunt any more than Newfoundlanders do. The commercial hunt's not about surviving in the way the PETA fellow would like you to believe. And PETA's lurid campaigns have nothing to do with subsistence hunting -- the guy who shoots a seal, brings it home and eats it. Those blood-drenched commercials are focused on stopping the commercial hunt and reducing the market for seal pelts, meat and body parts.

Boy oh boy, is it ever easy to sit in the city and pass judgment on the people from a completely foreign culture. The commercial hunt is seasonal work. It's tough, it's bloody, and it's dangerous. Right now, 39 sealing boats are trapped in the ice near Newfoundland. People don't do this because they're sickos who like to kill animals, and they don't do it so they can eat seal meat all year long. They do it for the same reason other people have jobs: to get money to pay the bills, because there's no other work. PETA doesn't think of this as "hunting in order to survive", but the fishermen do.

Seals are an easy target for PETA for three reasons:

  1. They're cute when they're babies;
  2. They're killed on the ice, which makes a nice contrast for blood; and
  3. The only people who have a real stake in the industry are destitute fishermen with no other job options.
If you've ever seen a sealskin, you know that adult seals are not cute. And they're not nice, or quiet, or docile. They will rip your face off. If you were ever face to face with an adult seal, you'd reach for the hakapik too. And yes, it's pretty horrible to see the pristine ice covered with blood. Nobody likes that. But it's a bit disingenuous to pretend that you wouldn't see much more blood if you put a white sheet down in a slaughterhouse. And I think #3 makes me madder than the other two.

My buddy Danny Williams has been the most vocal opponent of the anti-seal lobby. He appeared on Larry King Live with Paul McCartney about a year ago. Here's the transcript -- sorry, I don't have a YouTube link. The worst part of this, for me, was Sir Paul's utter ignorance about why people would kill seals. He feels that they don't make very much money, so they should just stop. The program revealed that the usual paycheque for a season of sealing is $10,000 to $20,000 for every member of the crew.

Now, I can understand that Sir Paul doesn't think this is very much money, but it's a heck of a lot for the rest of us. So I have a solution that would stop the entire industry and put clothes on the backs of those poor protesters in Florida: Sir Paul could pay each potential sealer $20,000 per year to sit at home and not kill seals. This would shut down the commercial hunt and PETA could count it as a "win".

But of course, this would never happen, because it would require the same kind of sacrifice from Sir Paul that he's demanding from the people of Newfoundland and Nunavut.


Cindy said...

Go, Megan, go!

This is quite possibly the best post you've ever written, for so many reasons.

Stacey said...

Meg, does "kill them! Kill them all!" remind you of anything?

Steve & Megan said...

Seals are the rats of the ocean. Go ahead and kill them. I'll start off with "kill them all!" if it means we can work together in partnership toward a compromise.

Hold on, I just vomited all over my keyboard.

The Capitalist said...

Dammit, its all so true I can't even think of a negative, sarcastic spin to put on it. I do think this issue should die out in a few years though, as it shouldn't take too long for the hunters to hunt them to extinction...