An animal rights group said it has found the key to stopping the Canadian annual seal hunt: a new campaign from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals focuses on informing the public about the amount of money the federal government spends in an effort to keep the hunt going.
“The Canadian government is spending millions of dollars to defend the seal hunt,” said Dan Mathews, senior vice president for PETA. “It’s not profitable.”
The government, however, has no intention of changing its stance on the hunt.
“The Government of Canada will not apologize for defending a lawful Canadian industry and the economies of coastal communities including the seal harvest,” said Nelson Kalil, media relations manager with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of Canada.
Still, seeing how much of their tax dollars is going to protecting the seal hunt, Mathews said, is the kick Canadians need to begin fighting Parliament and getting politicians to act on demands to end the hunt.
“Politicians play close attention to what people think,” Mathews said, adding that changing the discourse around the seal hunt is ultimately up to Canadian citizens. Late last month, longtime member and activist with PETA, actor Pamela Anderson, filed an Access to Information request with several federal ministries, asking for records showing evidence of tax dollars being spent on the seal hunt within the past decade.
One of the concerns, Mathews noted, is that tax dollars are being spent to promote seal products overseas. It has been almost a year since the European Union banned imports on Canadian seal products.
The ban, coupled with a decline in the market value of seal pelts (prices dropped to $15 in 2009 from $105 in 2006, according to PETA), has forced Canada to expand the market into China and Russia, Mathews said.
But the attempt is futile, he said.
“Canadians are trying to promote something no one wants,” Mathews said.
But the government maintains that the seal hunt is vital to many Canadians, and will continue to support it at home, and promote its expansion into new markets.
DFO’s website describes how the seal population has tripled since 1970 and the seal hunt can make up to 35 per cent of the income for hunters in Quebec, and communities in the north and along the Atlantic coast.
As such, the government is committed to help and support these remote communities, and to “making this a thriving, diversified and profitable industry,” Kalil said.