Dear Editor: Despite his latest about-face, NDP MP Ryan Cleary is naïve if he didn’t think his comments questioning the viability of the Canadian seal hunt wouldn’t be exploited, distorted and perverted by a group of people who have made a business out of doctoring and twisting the truth about the Canadian seal hunt.
Immediately following the news reports of his statements, PETA appeared to be taking credit for the apparent change in position of a prominent Newfoundland politician against the hunt and were integrating his words into their fundraising campaigns. With friends like that, who needs enemies.
As for the actual viability of the hunt, I am far more optimistic than Mr. Cleary and some others. I say that because I have seen the industry here before and seen it rebound.
In the mid-1980s, the economic performance of the hunt was even less then it is today. When the Mulroney government gave up on the hunt and left the conversation exclusively to the protest movement, the industry was at an all-time low. A few thousand seals were harvested and prices were around $5 or less.
After steady work by the sealing community and by the federal government during the 1990s, the industry renewed itself.
By 2005, over 330,000 were harvested, sealers were receiving up to $120 a pelt, pharmaceutical values were being captured from the omega 3-rich oils of the animal. Europe was sending trade delegations to Canada to actually expand the European market.
Oddly enough, six short years later, the industry plummeted back to where it was in 1987. But, like then, that doesn’t mean it has to stay there. The world is being consumed by a food shortage (no pun intended). Food prices have skyrocketed, and civil unrest has already occurred over prices and access in major European capitals.
The world is starving for additional sources of natural, sustainable, organic food, clothing and medicine from sources that can be depended upon.
Seals can be part of this. There are, after all, nine million harp seals off of eastern and northern Canada and their numbers are growing.
Those countries who are currently shunning the seal hunt may soon be petitioning to get access to the resource as a means to feed their people. With a world population that has already topped seven billion and expected to go to eight billion in record time, it is not fear mongering to suggest that segments of the population will begin to starve as the population outstrips world food production.
Perceptions of the Canadian seal harvest will undoubtedly change once food is left untaken, medicines left unutilized and sustainably harvested products left unused while people go without.
As for the Conservatives’ attack on Ryan Cleary’s comments, perhaps we could put this in some perspective and I’ll use a comparison to make my point.
Not long ago, when some protesters from the U.S. and Canada voiced opposition to a pipeline being built between Alberta and Texas called the Keystone pipeline, flanked by his minister of natural resources and other key federal ministers, the prime minister went on an-all out assault of those involved, calling them “radicals,” “extremists” and “enemies of Canada.” Every available means were employed to marginalize and discredit them.
Compare that to the Harper government’s position on the seal hunt.
In a few short weeks, people who have sworn to destroy the hunt, who have knowingly distorted and doctored images of the seal hunt to gain public support for their cause and who have sought confrontation for publicity purposes will soon be given state-issued permits to go back to the ice floes, stand 10 metres from a seal harvester trying to make a legal living.
Some will be given these permits so that they can harass and provoke sealers as they go about the hunt.
Some will collect film footage for future anti-sealing campaigns.
Some will even go out so they can identify sealers by name, post their family’s telephone numbers on the Internet, record their family’s movements and suggest that the assassination of their children is in order because their father hunts seals … all with a licence from the Canadian government that enables them to do so.
Maybe, from that perspective, Ryan Cleary’s missteps were tame compared to the actual actions of our government in promoting an end to the commercial seal hunt.
Gerry Byrne, Liberal MP,
Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte