Newfoundland and Labrador will be wasting some serious cash to fund a pro-sealing campaign just in time for an appeal of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) decision to uphold the European Union’s (EU) ban on seal products.
In 2010, the EU enacted a ban on seal products, including fur, meat and blubber, with exceptions for Inuit and other indigenous communities and for products that were derived for non-commercial purposes as a result of managing marine resources.
In November, the WTO ruled to uphold the EU’s ban, citing “public moral concerns” over the welfare of seals. The cruelty that is inherent in this industry has been a well documented source of global outrage. The ruling was a huge victory, but not just for seals. As the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) pointed out at the time the WTO’s recognition of our right to oppose and reject products that we believe are cruel and unsustainable was a victory in and of itself.
Canada, which relies on exports to keep the hunts going, didn’t really see it that way. Both Canada and Norway formally appealed the WTO’s ruling, maintaining that these hunts are humane and well regulated. Even with pelt prices dropping and a global market that’s disappearing with product bans already in place in the U.S., Mexico, Russia and Taiwan, the government continues to try to support the brutal slaughter of thousands of baby seals every year.
Now, Newfoundland and Labrador will be spending more money to fund an awareness campaign that is supposed to dispel myths being spread about the industry. Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings said the province will give $60,000 to the Seals and Sealing Network, a pro-hunting group that will lead the campaign.
“We want to be out in front again during that period to communicate as we’ve done in the past that it is a humane hunt,” Hutchings told the CBC. “It’s an industry, we believe, that can grow.”
To animal advocates, it’s pretty clear that there won’t be any growth here and that this is a dying industry. Unfortunately, instead of admitting it or moving to help commercial fishermen transition into other jobs, the government continues to waste millions of taxpayer dollars trying to prop it up.
“The only misinformation that I tend to see in the seal campaign comes from the commercial sealing industry and the government representatives that defend it,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International-Canada.
Seal advocates have also raised concerns about how mass slaughter will affect seal populations in the future. Even though they’re not considered to be in danger now, climate change could have a big impact on their future chances of survival because they rely so heavily on ice.
The commercial hunt off Newfoundland last spring took an estimated 91,000 harp seals and now animal advocates are concerned that thousands more will be senselessly killed for products no one wants before the WTO has a chance to rule on the appeal, with hearings expected to start mid-March. Hopefully, the WTO will uphold the ban again.
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