Letter to the Editor

Due consideration We should consider the facts carefully before determining whether Gary McRobb’s recent defection is a demonstration of…

Due consideration

We should consider the facts carefully before determining whether Gary McRobb’s recent defection is a demonstration of opportunism amongst members of the Yukon Liberal Party.

Even after McRobb’s move from NDP, only three of the current sitting members of the Liberal caucus were previously affiliated with other political parties.

Darcy M. Tkachuk

Marsh Lake 

A grand tradition

of barbarism

Open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the minister of the department Fisheries and Oceans, Loyola Hearn,

Prime Minister Harper, although the Conservatives are known for supporting business, is it really good business to provide $20 million in subsidies over a five year period (1995-2001) to a business that averages $5 million in taxpayer help per year.

I’m sure the money to bolster this unpopular ‘business’ continues to this day. But pouring good money after bad, isn’t that bad business?

Premier Williams, is this like the same great tradition of commercial cod fishing that virtually obliterated the cod population and caused the closure of the North Atlantic cod fishery in 2003?

By all means, bring another species to near-extinction and then say, ‘Oops, sorry about that’!

Minister Hearn, if you really think the pictures of abuse and seals being skinned alive are 20 years old then you must live in a place with no current TV reception to view film from the hunts from the last several years.

There was a time I looked forward to the month of March as heralding the end of winter and signaling that spring is just around the corner.

Now I dread March because I know the seal hunt with the associated pain and suffering is due to start.

And, make no mistake, my concern is not just because the seal pups are ‘cute’ — it is the blatant inhumane acts carried out by the sealers that really makes me angry. Actions that go unpunished and unreported by the television networks.

In 1983 the European Economic Community banned the import of seal whitecoat pelts (under 12 to 14 days old) and all harp seal products.

The US also put this ban in place. In 2005 Italy had an invited representative join the International Fund for Animal Welfare on the ice floes to witness the brutality of the hunt.

In February 2006, Italy placed a temporary ban on sealskins and seal-derived products.

A legislative proposal to make the ban permanent has been introduced in the Italian Parliament. Italy joins Belgium, the Netherlands and Mexico with this legislation.

The sad fact is that there are cruel people everywhere and this includes a portion of the sealers.

International teams of veterinarians that regulate the treatment of seals during the hunt have provided filmed evidence that up to 40 per cent of the seal pups were being skinned alive.

And no, Hearn, these pictures are NOT 20 years old! If you consider that 300,000 kills is the government limit, and even if you only take 10 per cent of the kills, that means that 30,000 pups are dying a horrible death.

As reported in the Washington Post last year “A seal appeared to be gasping for air, blood running from its nose. Not far away a sealer sharpens his knife blade.

“The seal seems to be thrashing as its fur is sliced from its torso.”

An ugly and brutal picture, but it happens every day during the hunt! Studies have shown that up to half the pups don’t have sufficient skill fractures from the clubbing to render them unconscious.

Witnesses have seen these seals grabbed by a hook and dragged off to be skinned.

Which brings us to the Canadian TV coverage on this subject: it is completely one-sided, talking about tradition (there’s that word again) and showing weeping Newfoundlander wives saying that their husbands should be allowed to continue to hunt.

There are stories on the arrest of protesters who don’t observe the rules regarding how close they can get to the slaughter.

(How about the sealers who don’t observe the rules — anybody covering that?).

And were you aware that protests took place in Zagreb, Croatia; London, England; Madras, Israel; Capetown, South Africa; Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia, all over Europe and the US?

I bet the answer to that is ‘no,’ because the Canadian TV networks seem to be interested in covering just one side of the story.

What happened to the days when reporters actually reported both sides of a story and let the public make up their own minds?

Observers include foreign government representatives invited to join the hunt by IFAW, reporters, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the Humane Society of the United States and of course IFAW.

Year after year they document atrocities that only Canada seems oblivious to.

Now I know that people talk about the tradition of the hunt and how sealers need the money (sealing is an off-season activity conducted by commercial fishermen).

About 90 per cent of the sealers live in Newfoundland, but seal income accounts for less than one per cent of the provincial gross domestic product.

Well all I can say is the tradition of commercial fishing for cod has resulted in a depletion of the species.

In 2003 the North Atlantic cod fishery was shut down indefinitely by the Canadian government.

Cause to worry: The department of Fisheries and Oceans’ absolute ineptness had a hugely detrimental affect on the cod and this is the same ministry that oversees the seal hunt?

I, for one, am concerned about anything they might claim about the seal hunt!

And if it is about the money, how much of an impact is the North American boycott of Canadian fish being organized by animal welfare groups having on profits?

Restaurant chains and food chains are refusing to buy Canadian fish until this hunt is stopped.

Personally I would settle at this point for a reduction in the quota and punishment to sealers who clearly abuse animal welfare rules and regulations already in place (but not enforced).

And just to add to the financial penalty, my husband and I are recently retired and planning to travel Canada, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that Newfoundland and Labrador will never be on our itinerary!

And to add insult to injury, the sealers are subsidized by you and me.

Yes folks, the Canadian government pays them to hunt.

According to the Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment, more than $20 million in subsidies have been provided between 1995 and 2001.

If income is so crucial why did the head of the Canadian Sealers Association tell reporters ‘we don’t do tourism’ when offered job in the tourism industry to take people onto the floes to observe the magnificent spectacle of the seals instead of killing them?

When a European businessman offered to open a fake seal fur factory, why was he rejected?

Cod stocks were depleted by commercial fishing, this is a fact.

In March 2006, professor S. Harris of Bristol University stated that killing one million seals in three years poses a threat to the very survival of the species. What will the DFO kill off next?

Where are the animal cruelty inspectors? Why aren’t they on the ice floes instead of on ships or even worse, on shore?

Why aren’t federal inspectors taking charge of this situation (and NOT in a federal government uniform so sealers can see them coming)?

Shouldn’t sealers who don’t kill the pups with a single blow, and still skin them, be removed from the ice and charged for breaking the so-called rules on how to club a seal to death?

Why aren’t the sealers skinning an animal alive charged with animal abuse on an unthinkable scale?

These cruel, non-caring people should be permanently banned from the hunt, have to return their federal subsidy and be fined and, hopefully, sentenced to jail.

Too harsh? Too bad!

Maybe then the other sealers will think twice before inflicting pain and suffering in the name of ‘tradition’!

Leslie Yeoman

Winnipeg, Manitoba