24 January 2012

Ryan Cleary on ending the seal hunt, circa 2008 #nlpoli

Update:  This is the same column Michael Connors tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, but copied to a different website

Update Update:  And then macleans.ca noticed Ryan…again.

To be fair to Ryan Cleary, this is not the first time he has suggested we need to stop smashing seals over the head and selling off bits and pieces of them.

Sure Cleary’s the guy who has never met a nationalist myth he wouldn’t monger or touchstone he wouldn’t grope, but he has been known to take a different view of the seal hunt.

A quick google search Tuesday night turned up a column of his from April 2008 from the old Spindy.  Someone posted it to an IFAW website.

Try not to giggle at the idea of Ryan Cleary using the word reality.

“REALITY CHECK: Time to Face the Fact the Newfoundland Seal Hunt is Doomed.”

The Independent, Newfoundland and Labrador Newspaper

By Columnist RYAN CLEARY
Saturday, April 19, 2008

Time to face the fact the Newfoundland seal hunt is doomed. We cannot save it, not right now, no matter how right and desperate we are to try.

The forces against the commercial hunt - dark though so many of them may be - have become too passionate and powerful. The animal rights crowd is winning the public relations war with the average Joe and Jane on the world street. The continued battle is doing more harm than good to our economy and international image.

We would be better off if the commercial hunters retreated -at least for now, until a world appetite develops such that the method of harvest is secondary to the mouths that are fed and bodies clothed.

It hasn't been that way in a dog's age. The Newfoundland hunt was once about survival, plain and simple. Every part of the animal was used to keep outport body and soul together. More and more it's about pelts and prices.

That's not enough to justify a hunt. The seal has become the modern-day buffalo in terms of waste.

Given that so many of the world's cupboards appear to be bare or headed there, a new hunger for seal (and our fish, but that's not this week's topic) may not be that far off. It was only last week the Globe carried a two-page feature on the rising prices of food around the planet and a crisis around the corner.

The world will eat seal when it's hungry enough to eat seal. It wasn't long ago lobster was the spider of the sea.

As for the politicians defending the hunt - federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn chief among them - he's been criticized in the national media for using the hunt to improve the Conservative lot in the Atlantic provinces.

It sure looks that way. At the very least, Hearn was stunned enough to play directly into Paul Watson's hands. Hearn, the poor over-his-head shagger, can't win. More on that in a moment.

On Thursday of this week The Globe and Mail ran eight letters to the editor under the headline, The many truths about sealing.

A sample of the anti-hunt sentiments:

"I will not vacation in Canada and will avoid buying Canadian products until the seal slaughter stops," writes Pat Ginsbach of Kerrville, Tex.

Anita Rutz of New York mentions the recent loss of four sealers from Quebec. "If they weren't committing acts against God's creatures, they would be alive."

Peter Bowker of Ontario says if government could find $50 million to pay pig farmers not to raise pigs, why can't the same amount be found to pay sealers not to seal? "Or must we admit that the hunt, as it is conducted, is really a cultural ritual, like cockfighting and fox hunting?"

Many Canadians who can sympathise with the economic necessity of the seal hunt can't get past the term "skinned alive," writes Birgit Van De Wetering of Ontario. "It belies the image of warmth and folksiness the Newfoundland Tourist Board is trying to sell us."

Right or wrong, an anti-seal hunt attitude has taken hold. That's the reality.

We are right to defend sealing as part of our heritage. An attack on the hunt is an attack on who we are as a people and where we come from. Remove the emotion from the debate, however, and it's clear the commercial hunt is no longer critical to our survival.

Today's hunt is as much about pride - our God-given right to hunt - as money. That attitude got us nowhere with fish. It's getting us nowhere with seals.

I would argue the hunt has marginal value. The potential loss to tourism alone may far outweigh the benefits of a continued hunt.
God knows the hunt has political power.

The Globe went after Hearn earlier this week in an editorial critical of the Canadian Coast Guard's recent boarding and seizure of the environmental vessel Farley Mowat and the arrest of her captain and first officer. The paper described the move as a "grossly disproportionate response" to the efforts of opponents to document the seal hunt.

For his part, Paul Watson, head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said the action was taken to seize graphic videotapes of the hunt. The Globe, on the other hand, noted the action was a way for Hearn and his party to redeem themselves with East Coasters.
God knows they need redeeming.

Premier Danny Williams waded into the debate with a guest column of his own in the Globe. He proposes the banning of hakapiks. But such a move will not appease anyone as long as the ice beneath the seal is stained red with blood.

Ironically, ending the commercial seal hunt may spell an end to Watson, who relies on it financially as much as any sealer from Twillingate.

The Globe also carried letters in defence of the hunt. Kyle McIver of Kingston says he finds no difference between clubbing seals with hakapiks, fish asphyxiating on decks or using high-pressure metal bolts to sever spinal cords of cattle. "If sealing is basically akin to agricultural meat production and fishing, then the primary reason to defend seals is reduced to the fact they are cute with big round eyes and soft fur, and the argument fails."

The argument may fail, but the big round eyes will always win. Until the people are hungry enough.

- srbp -