The seal of disapproval

Ed Smith
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I have been a great supporter of the Olympics. Other Half and I spend many hours watching them, summer and winter, every two years. Can't wait for each year to pass so we can climb on the bandwagon or the sofa, whichever is more appropriate, and cheer on our Canadian teams.

We even appreciate great performances from other countries. Nothing political about us - unless Canadians are involved. We do refuse to cheer for the Iraqi and Afghan marksmen squads. No, we haven't seen them, but we wouldn't cheer for them if we did. Please don't quibble over irrelevant details.

Let's jump ahead to what is fast becoming the great non-event of our times: the annual seal hunt. For those of you who've been dead and buried for the past three weeks, I have to tell you that the commercial seal hunt is deader than you are.

You may not like to hear that, especially if you're a seal hunter. On the other hand, sealers know the truth of it better than anyone. They know the price of pelts may buy you enough gas to get out of the harbour, but it sure as hell won't get you back in. The Europeans have seen to that.

You do know by now that the EU Parliament has voted for a ban on all seal products, and no, they're not just talking about flippers. Not that many flipper dinners in France and Britain this time of year.

"All seal products" means primarily sealskin products. It does not include seal meat. You might as well try to sell cod tongues on the Riviera or fish and brewis in Paris.

I know it's supposed to be crass to say it even if we are excused for thinking it. But yes, you're right. These are the same European countries for whom a generation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians bought freedom and paid for it with their blood.

I know the arguments against that attitude and normally I'd agree. But when I see the livelihood being wiped out of men whose fathers and uncles and grandfathers gave their lives - and would do so again - to preserve the way of life of these same people, my blood pressure starts to rise.

I wonder what my Uncle Ed, who gave his life when hardly out of his teens, would think if he were here today.

OK, how long are they supposed to remain grateful? Seems to me to be the same question his followers asked Jesus: how often should one forgive another? Should we expect them to vote against their conscience? No, but we can expect them to listen carefully to our people before taking the word of the likes of Heather Mills or Paul McCartney or Brigitte Bardot.

But they didn't, and for that I hold them accountable.

One might have expected that the Prime Minister, out of his great love for this province and its people, might have put up a bit of a stronger argument to the Europeans when he talked to them about free trade last week. But, as he himself said, he couldn't jeopardize other areas of trade with Canada by coming on too strong about seals.

That shouldn't surprise us too much. The same thing has been done over the years with foreign countries being allowed to rape and pillage our fish stocks. Fish were given away in their millions of metric tonnes in exchange for considerations for goods from other Canadian provinces.

Perhaps you were as pleasantly surprised as I when the Members of Parliament voted to have Canadian athletes wear a patch of sealskin on their uniforms during the Winter Olympics next year in BC. Well done, boys and girls!

But then our athletes reacted, as did the Canadian Olympic Committee. No way Jose! A variety of reasons were given. One young stalwart stated in no uncertain terms that he would not wear anything that encouraged the killing of baby seals. Wow! Straight to heaven for that bit of animal ethics alone.

It goes without saying, of course, that this young man wouldn't be caught dead in ski boots or skates made of leather. Certainly not! None of these athletes will be eating lamb or veal. A side trip to a local slaughterhouse should keep them off chicken and beef, at least for the duration of their stay. They'll just have to eat fish for protein.

I don't mean to compare these youngsters with seasoned European parliamentarians. The kids are just ignorant. So are the Europeans, of course, but there's less excuse for them.

It's been made clear on several occasions that the Canadian public isn't exactly enamored of the seal hunt. Given their druthers, they'd just as soon see everything east of QuÉbec cut adrift. It's all "Down East" to them, anyway, and somewhat of an embarrassment when they visit abroad.

"Yes, my dear, those horrid little Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are still slaughtering those beautiful baby seals, but we don't have much to do with them, you know."

But then came the killer of them all. Some people in our own beloved capital city of St. John's were interviewed on the street. They were asked a simple question, "Would you give up (European) wines to protest their ban on seal products?"

The answers from our fellow Newfoundlanders were the final nail in the seal hunt coffin. Incredibly, all but one said a definite and resounding "No!" No way would they switch to Israeli, or Australian or South African or Californian or even Canadian wines to support the seal hunt. How much can we expect them to sacrifice, after all?

How silly are we now in light of that to expect the support of anyone else in this whole wide Earth!

Silly and stupid to think that we even deserve it.

Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is

Organizations: EU Parliament, Canadian Olympic Committee

Geographic location: France, Britain, Paris Canada BC QuÉbec St. John's Springdale

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