By Sheila Dabu Nonato
The Canadian government is dismissing a provocative new iPhone app set up by the Humane Society of the United States that is aggressively targeting Canada’s seal industry as a recycled campaign of “old tricks” and “misinformation.”
The society is calling for a boycott of all Canadian seafood products until the Canadian government ends the so-called “cruel” and “needless” slaying of baby seals.
A spokeswoman for Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield told Postmedia News in an email that this recent campaign is spreading “misinformation.”
“We believe that consumers should be free to make their own purchasing decisions based on the facts — that Canadian seafood products are among the best in the world and that the seal harvest is sustainable, humane, and profitable,” she said.
Anti-sealing activists launched a similar campaign in 2005 which failed, the spokesperson noted in an email.
“Many large American purchasers of Canadian seafood did not join the 2005 campaign after learning the facts about the hunt,” she said.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the app “allows users to locate restaurants and food suppliers who support boycotting Canadian seafood products until the country ends its annual slaughter of baby seals.”
The “protect seals” app is a free resource available on iPhone and soon will be available on other smartphones. The app was launched Thursday at a splashy event in San Francisco, which included American chefs under the banner of “Chefs for Seals” and “America’s Next Top Model” photographer Nigel Barker.
The event “drew attention to the plight of seals on Canada’s East Coast and spotlighted the more than 100 compassionate chefs in the Bay Area who have joined in trying to save them,” the group said in a statement.
“The many Bay Area chefs who have joined The Humane Society of the United States boycott of Canadian seafood are sending a clear message to Canada’s fishing industry that its commercial seal slaughter must end now,” said John Grandy, the society’s senior vice-president of wildlife. “With the launch of the iPhone app, consumers have a quick and easy way to bring their economic power to bear against this annual slaughter.”
On its website, the Fisheries Department notes that Canada’s seal harvesting practices are “among the best in the world,” guided by rigorous internationally recognized animal-welfare principles which are enforced by the government “to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Canadian government will work with American companies and consumers to ensure they’re getting the “real facts about Canada’s sealing industry,” according to Ashfield’s spokeswoman.
“Veterinarians have found that the tools used by sealers are at least as humane, and often more humane than, the killing methods used in commercial slaughterhouses, which are accepted by the majority of the public,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Sealers Association declares on its website that baby seals are never harvested in Canada, where the practice has been banned since 1987.
In an online post called “Myths And Realities: The Atlantic Canada Seal Hunt,” the association said, “Marine Mammal Regulations prohibit the trade, sale or barter of the fur of these pups. Furthermore, adult seals cannot be harvested when they are in breeding or birthing grounds and younger seals must be weaned, self-reliant and independent.”
The Atlantic Canada-based association was formed in 1982 “in response to negative publicity against the sealing industry by some animal rights groups,” according to its website.
It represents more than 6,000 sealers who are professional fishers licensed by the Canadian government.
Canadian sealers harvested 40,000 seals in 2011 when the government quota was set at 335,000, according to the Canadian Sealers Association.