The annual Canadian seal hunt is cruel and unnecessary. That’s a given. Now we need to figure out how we’re going to stop it. We have seen some major victories recently, some legislative changes, some media stunts, consumer boycotts, and direct action. Let’s talk about boycotting as a tactic for ending the seal hunt.
Since March 29, 2005 the Humane Society of the United States has been calling for a boycott of Canada seafood. Since then, over 60 animal and environmental protection organizations, lots of restaurants and seafood companies have joined our campaign. HSUS even went after Red Lobster to get them to stop supporting Canadian fishers. As far as I know, Red Lobster hasn’t caved yet.
It is fisherman who are killing seals during their off-season, so the goal of the HSUS boycott is to affect the fishermen’s bottom line by getting companies to boycott their primary income source. But I think there’s a strategic problem with this approach. As animal activists, we should be encouraging people to boycott all seafood, all of the time. Just like seals, fish are sentient animals who are capable of suffering. Fish ought not be hunted by Canadians anymore than seals. Despite some of the successes of this boycott, it just rubs me the wrong way. It seems like we’re throwing one animal under the bus to save another.
PETA is also running a boycott of Canadian products. They’re asking conscientious people avoid buying Canadian maple syrup. Syrup is a major export of Canada, but less directly linked to the seal hunt. While the PETA boycott makes more sense to me, I think the HSUS boycott is also an important part of a diverse movement. I’m sure there are HSUS supporters who may not be vegetarian yet, so having them boycott Canadian fish may be good in the short-term. It would be better for animals overall if they went vegetarian.
In order to topple the Canadian seal hunt we need a diverse group of people attacking it from different angles. The truth is that we don’t know what will work, so we need to engage in a wide diversity of tactics. We will win this one, it’s only a matter of time.
Take action by signing the petition letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Let him know that you are against the hunt!
What do you think about these boycotts? Answer in the comments below.
UPDATE: Read the follow-up article here: How will we end the cruel seal hunt?