As a Canadian, I can tell you that my fellow countrymen pride themselves greatly on living in a humane and compassionate society — a society that many of them believe is vastly morally superior to the United States. While there is absolutely no substance whatsoever to legitimize such a view, it is clear why many Canadians need to believe it: Canada’s very identity is rooted in anti-Americanism. When Canadians feel patriotic, they usually express this sentiment by saying something critical about Americans, rather than articulating something intrinsically definitive about Canada. And that’s understandable: aside from the various boastful (and embarrassing) references to the Canadian health care system, which has sadly come to define Canadian identity, it is almost impossible for Canadians to be certain about who they are — except that they aren’t Americans. A strong argument could actually be made that without anti-Americanism, Canada would simply cease to exist.
With all of the smug self-congratulation shamelessly exhibited recently by Canadian personalities and television announcers during the Vancouver Olympics (for which Canadians would scoffingly ridicule Americans if they had engaged in even a fraction of such self-patting on the back), I couldn’t help but wonder: in terms of a certain grotesque and inhumane policy currently supported by the Canadian government, how can any citizen in the land of the Maple Leaf see himself as living in an enlightened and compassionate society?
Visualize this, if you would, for a moment:
A man with a spiked club approaches a defenseless seal pup and begins to beat it mercilessly until the pup is bloodied, pulverized and semi-conscious. The attacker then drives a hook into the seal pup’s eye or nose and drags it across the ice. Then he skins the pup while it is still alive. The mother of the pup watches from a close distance, squealing in agony — after it helplessly tried to get in between her baby and the clubber to protect her offspring. The convulsing carcass is left on the ice for its mother to sniff and grieve over.
This is the real-life and monstrous reality of Canada’s commercial seal hunt. If you want to witness the barbarity with your own eyes, watch this video.
The savagery of the Canadian seal massacre is completely unacceptable for any society that considers itself humane. Ninety five percent of the seals are babies less than four weeks old; they are still suckling their mom’s milk and have not eaten their first solid meal or taken their first swim. They are helpless on the ice. The sealers shoot these baby seals or use hakapiks, long, sharply hooked metal clubs, to bludgeon them, leaving them to suffer on the ice in pools of blood for extended periods of time. The baby seals are left terrified and crying from the torture, until the sealers return to bludgeon them once again and then skin them alive without even checking if they are dead. Oftentimes the baby seals are cut open with box cutters while they are still alive — inches away from each other and in full sight of their weeping on-looking mothers. Some seals slide under the ice and drown; others escape after they are shot or stabbed — only to die a slow and painful death.
It is in humanitarian and compassionate Canada that this perversion is taking place. And the annual commercial seal hunt is now set to begin once again. It represents the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world. And the Canadian government gives it a mind-boggling thumbs up. That’s why, every year, approximately 300,000 harp seals are murdered. In the last four years alone, over a million harp seals have been killed.
The seal massacre is a horrendous crime in myriad ways. The inhumanity, heartlessness, and sadism goes without saying. The hunt is also an obvious threat to the survival of the seals themselves: it will deplete their population by as much as 50 to 70 percent over the next 15 years. Seals are also a vital part of the Northwest Atlantic’s ecosystem. Killing them in mass numbers threatens the survival of cod, since the elimination of seals increases the number of predatory fish (i.e., squid) that eat cod. Killing seals, moreover, contributes to bacterial infestation on the ocean floor, which causes hypoxia, a condition which depletes dissolved oxygen in patches of ocean that become unable to sustain marine life.
This grotesque industry is a crime against life. It poisons the harmony between nature and humanity. And in the most tragic and outrageous sense, it is all for nothing: mass and brutal killing of baby seals for totally unnecessary reasons. It doesn’t help the economy at all. It’s all connected to human luxury and vanity.
And yet, the Canadian government not only continues to rubber stamp this savagery, it blatantly lies to the public, maintaining that the seals are killed humanely. All empirical reality discredits this pathetic falsehood. Watch any video on youtube about it; read the documentation provided by groups such as Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Animal welfare groups have documented hundreds of violations of the Marine Mammal Regulations under the Fisheries Act that govern the seal hunt.
But the outrage continues. The Canadian sea hunt is coming up this spring and we will be seeing yet another unconscionable picture: the Canadian Coast Guard ships breaking ice and helping sealing ships to get to the baby seals to torture and murder them.
One bit of hopeful news: Canada is increasingly on its own in its complicity with this barbarism. The rest of the world is way ahead in dissociating itself from, and denouncing, the seal slaughter. The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution condemning the Canadian sea hunt. Ten nations have now either banned trade in seal products or are in the process of doing so. The European Union has just enacted a prohibition on seal product trade. International opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of terminating the Canadian seal hunt. And the vast majority of Canadian citizens are against it.
These are loud messages to the Canadian government. It’s a message that says that the horrific seal hunt is completely unacceptable.
The self-satisfaction of Canadian leaders, citizens, and the media was very evident during the recent Olympics. We heard repeated pronouncements of self-congratulation about how we defeated the U.S. for the Gold in hockey and, of course, about what a great country we live in. But how is this compatible with the moral depravity of the Canadian slaughter of seals? Isn’t it time the Canadian government ended this obscenity and stop shaming itself and its citizens, not only in principle, but also in the eyes of the entire world?