I am proud to be Canadian, and I do know what's going on off of our east coast right now.
About this time every year we start reading in the media headlines like Massive Seal Cull Angers Activists and Protests at 'Needless' Cull of Seals. But it seems that the other side of the story, never seems to get much attention. So, I am here to say that the seal hunt is not evil, it is in fact a good thing. It provides income to communities in a part of Canada where it can be extremely hard to make a living, it is carried out as humanely as possible under tough conditions, and while it is a, (relatively), ancient tradition, the hunt has been modernized to address many of the concerns of its opponents.
In Atlantic Canada, especially the areas surrounding the Gulf of St. Lawrence, there is very little work, so people who do live there need to take advantage of any opportunity they have to make money. At this time of year when the sea has been covered in ice for months it is still not possible to fish, but it is possible to hunt seal, and so that's how many communities put food on the table. Even later in the year when the weather is good enough to fish many fishermen are not able to fish because the Atlantic fishery remains largely closed. These few days of seal hunting are a precious chance for many families to earn a couple thousand dollars to tide them through the lean months to come, or to repay debts from the lean months that just passed.
When the sealers are out taking their catch, whether they want to or not, they are required to follow strict procedures when killing and skinning the seals. They are not permitted to kill the baby seals with white fur that we have all seen in the media. They are required to ensure each seal is truly dead before skinning it, and they use highly effective methods of killing the seals such as rifles, clubs, and specially-designed clubs called hakapiks. The sealers strike the seals in the head which usually leads to a very quick death. Indeed, if someone is going to euthanize an animal that has been struck by a car, for instance, that person will likely either strike it in the head with a club or shoot it. The methods used to kill the seals are no less humane than the methods used to slaughter cattle, pork, or poultry every day, but because that slaughter goes on behind closed doors nobody seems to make a fuss. Even some video shown by Sky News, admittedly a biased source, (despite their claims of objectivity), shows seals being quickly killed. It is true that not all sealers follow all of the rules, but this is true in most situations, (do you, reader, speed sometimes?). To counter this the Department of Fisheries and Oceans monitor the seal hunt more closely than any other hunt in Canada, and likely the world.
The commercial seal hunt dates back hundreds of years making it, in Canadian terms, ancient. I am not going to argue that the Inuit have hunted seals since the beginning of time or anything because they are largely not involved in the commercial hunt. Over the years the seal hunt has evolved to become as modern and humane as possible. When there was huge upset over the killing of whitecoats, that practice was outlawed. Now, as the world is concerned with the humane killing of the seals steps are being taken to ensure that the seal hunt becomes less cruel. This year, for the first time, sealers are being asked to cut the seal's main artery before skinning it to ensure it is dead. Admittedly, they are not all doing this, but that's what the close monitoring is for, and before long it will likely be a part of the sealers' routines.
Many people believe that the seal cull is cruel because the seals are killed for their fur, not for the meat, however, what it really comes down to is the income provided by the seals. If the sealers could sell the seal meat they would, and probably this organic, free-range, wild meat would be eaten by environmentally conscious diners throughout eastern Canada. However the fact is that few people will buy seal meat, they prefer to buy cattle and poultry that never see the light of day. The annual seal hunt is critical to the survival and well-being of many families and communities in Atlantic Canada. It is carried out as humanely as possible in very tough conditions, (in many cases more humanely than the average slaughterhouse floor), and it is adapting to contemporary needs. The seal hunt should be here to stay.