Albion Monitor /Commentary

Kill More Seals

by Eric Margolis

Killing more seals might mean more fish, maybe more jobs for fishermen, thus more votes

Canada is decomposing politically. Ottawa can't rein in its runaway spending. The dollar has become a wampum. Recession and mental depression grip the land. And so what is government's solution?

Kill more seals.

This is a policy is worthy of the early Stone Age.

Ottawa just authorized fishermen, many now unemployed due to their own overfishing, to slaughter 250,000 harp seals. The current quota is 186,000, though 'only' 67,000 were beaten to death this year because bad weather hindered the massacre of these benign, elegant creatures.

Ottawa's primitive logic: seals eat too many fish. Killing more seals might mean more fish, maybe more jobs for fishermen, thus more votes. Besides, there's a booming market for seal penises in Asia, where they are widely -- but wrongly -- believed to be aphrodisiac.

Why stop with seals? Extend such reasoning to its logical conclusion: unleash what's left of Canada's military firepower on sea birds, who eat even more fish than seals. On whales, who hoover up krill, the basis of the marine food chain. And napalm all penguins, These perky little savages eat tons and tons of fish.

Canada has unfortunately gained a reputation a major abuser of wildlife

Besides being cretinous, Ottawa's planned seal massacre is a perfect example of how government intervention on behalf of special interest groups damages the national economy.

If there are not sufficient jobs in Newfoundland and other impoverished Maritime regions, people there should be strongly encouraged to move to regions where work is available. If immigrants from Sri Lanka or Hong Kong can find work in central or western Canada, so can Newfoundlanders. Instead, the government squanders billions of taxpayer's money to pay generations of fisherfolk not to work, or to pretend to work.

This is an international problem. Government around the world support numerically small, but politically powerful special interest groups to the detriment of the national good: rice farmers in Japan; sugar growers in Louisiana; truculent French wheat farmers; Russian coal miners. These belligerent rustics manage to loot their nation's public purse, while relentlessly moaning of the terrible hardships they endure. This is a political, not economic problem -- what economists call artificial distortion of labor markets.

Canada's notorious seal hunt, however, has also made it an international pariah. Canada's name is mud in northern Europe because of the fur trade, and Ottawa's refusal to ban horribly cruel leg traps. Canadians believe they are renowned around the globe for their high morality and exquisite social consciousness. In fact, the most vivid image many foreigners have of Canada is of baby seals being clubbed to death by brutish fishermen. International outrage finally halted this abomination. But Canada's negative image continues, and will get worse because of Ottawa's latest encouragement of senseless animal slaughter.

This, in turn, threatens all Canadian exporters with boycotts in key European markets. The seal slaughter and leg traps produced boycotts of Canadian furs and fish. Now, animal rights groups and the EU are discussing a wider boycott of raw materials and finished goods.

Arguing that Europeans have killed all their wild animals and now want to impose rules on Canada, won't wash. Any more than Brazil's similar complaints that North Americans, who cut down all their original-growth trees, have no right to tell them to stop burning the Amazon rainforest. Both arguments are true, but irrelevant. Canada has unfortunately gained a reputation a major abuser of wildlife just when concern for the rights of animals is fast becoming a major world issue.

The respected 'International Fund for Animal Welfare,' and 'World Society for Protection of Animals,' rightly denounce the seal slaughter as cruel and senseless. There is no use for seal meat. To see Ottawa encouraging export of seal penises as bogus aphrodisiacs -- Canadian Spanish fly -- is shameful and sleazy.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, here is a case of the unspeakable massacring the inedible.

Eric Margolis is a syndicated columnist and broadcaster who writes the weekly "Foreign Correspondent" dispatch.

Albion Monitor January 12, 1996 (

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