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The seal hunt is more humane than industrial farming and fishing

Photo by Danielle Sachs

It’s not that I think everyone should go out and kill a seal. I don’t think we should expand the seal hunt and I’m not suggesting anyone should purchase more seal products. But I think the outrage directed at seal hunters is often misinformed and would be better directed elsewhere.

Recently Rodney Mercer, a Newfoundland artist, created an image of Ellen DeGeneres carved into seal fur in protest of her public support of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an active opponent of the Canadian seal hunt. DeGeneres famously took a selfie with a group of celebrities at the Oscars and Samsung donated $3 million to the charities of her choice with part of the funds going to the HSUS. She also has a post on her website calling seal hunting “one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government.”

I can’t help but feel that if salmon were more adorable, there might be the same level of indignation expressed over their potential extinction. Our oceans are filled with trash, and fish populations are being drastically affected by both pollution and overfishing. Many people are aware of this crisis, but continue to buy and eat fish on a regular basis.

Furthermore, the killing practices on your average industrial farm are far more disturbing and inhumane than modern seal hunting, which is stringently regulated. The hunt has extensive quotas for both the overall number of seals that can be hunted each year, as well as quotas for each individual hunter.

Contrary to the image of the club or hakapik often associated with the hunt, the majority of seal hunters no longer use them, instead using firearms. There are also regulations in place to ensure that hunted seals are killed and not left maimed and suffering for a long time.

In solidarity with Mercer’s work of art, Inuit who participate in the seal hunt began the “sealfie” campaign on Twitter, where they posted photos of themselves in clothing made from seal fur to protest DeGeneres’ anti-sealing stance. Archaeological evidence suggests that First Nations people have been hunting seals for more than 4,000 years in Canada. Within northern communities in Nunavut and Newfoundland, seal meat still supplements residents’ diets, the pelts are still used for clothing, and the oil is used as a fish oil supplement.

Ultimately, I don’t think anyone is obligated to come out on the side of the seal hunt. Most of us live an urban lifestyle that has us so far removed from the origin of our food, I can understand why it might make people uncomfortable. But working to end a cultural tradition that is neither widespread nor substantially crueller than many animal-killing practices that bring meat to grocery stores every single day seems like wasted effort.

For those who have given the practice critical thought and whose objection to it extends to animal cruelty as a whole, I applaud you. But I really can’t understand the position of those who simply feel squeamish at the thought of killing a cute, furry animal and feel comfortable condemning cultural traditions while they continue to support unethical farming practices and overfishing on a regular basis without comment or criticism.