Animal-rights group forecasts end of seal industry
Sheryl Fink is forecasting the demise of the seal industry, but how that happens should be determined by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
© — Photo by Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star
Sheryl Fink, IFAW’s director of wildlife campaigns in Canada, pets Jake, 2, at the NL West SPCA in Corner Brook Tuesday. Jake is currently up for adoption.
“It’s not for a group like (International Fund for Animal Welfare) or Pam Anderson or anybody else to sort of provide the solution,” the wildlife campaigns director for IFAW Canada said during an interview at The Western Star in Corner Brook Tuesday.
“We need a solution that is made in Newfoundland.”
She says alternatives should be explored for rural communities to help them stay sustainable and keep people living there.
Fink’s primary focus is working to end the commercial seal hunt in Canada, something she has been doing for 11 years.
She is again in Newfoundland this spring, but again it is not to observe the hunt. The industry has changed significantly over the years, as ice conditions and a decrease in fishermen has made the annual visit to the ice floes less effective than years ago.
It was just two years ago, as she and her crew hovered high above in a helicopter, that Fink’s frustrations with little activity to observe and shoot footage of was publicized.
This year, she is in Newfoundland, with communications officer Andreas Krebs to visit with supporters — of which IFAW has more than 900 in the province — and speak to people about what they see as the future for the industry.
Fink was in Corner Brook Tuesday, minus the helicopter and crew and even the bright orange or yellow IFAW winter attire for those trips to the ice floes, where she was able to make her rounds without drawing much attention, if any, to herself.
She met with members of the NL West SPCA, an organization to which IFAW made a $5,000 donation a couple of years ago to assist with the more than 200 cats that were found in a home in the Corner Brook.
Fink shrugged off a question about whether she thought Newfoundlanders would be surprised the organization contributed to the local animal group. She said it was rare for IFAW to make a contribution to a humane society.
“They have done a tremendous job,” she said. “It was a tremendous burden placed on them in a short period of time.
“I am glad we were able to help out. Of course, I wish we were able to help out more.”
On the belief there is not a worldwide market for seal products — despite the millions of public dollars spent on the industry — there is a change in the approach of the IFAW toward lobbying for the end of the commercial hunt.
After years of heavy debate and controversy about whether it is a humane industry and a focus on seal pups, current attention is being placed on the sustainability of the industry. A soon-to-be-released production has no bloodshed, and no mention of slaughter or inhumane practices.
It is an approach the IFAW is more willing to engage in these days, she says.
“If you do get that opportunity to sit down and talk to someone about the facts, a lot of people will start to question,” she said. “We can leave the cruelty out of it. You might notice we don’t even talk about cruelty that much anymore.
“We talk about economics, and what is the necessity of the industry, and how long are we going to keep subsidizing and bailing them out if there are no natural markets for the product.”
She says that approach has even been effective in discussions with people from Newfoundland, where she said polling has shown one in five people are at least questioning the support for the hunt.
Part of her visit to Newfoundland is to encourage some of those 900 supporters to speak out. However, she said she understands the intimidation that exists in doing that within their home province.
Fink says she respects the tradition and heritage of the seal fishery, and believes that will not die with the demise of the industry. She also says there will always be a recreational type fishery for those wanting to hunt seals as a food source.
She says she has mostly found Newfoundlande to live up to its reputation as the friendliest province in the country.
The Western Star