Cleary sports sealskin to prove support

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on January 27, 2012
St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP Ryan Cleary in a sealskin vest. — Submitted photo

The fur has been flying all week over Ryan Cleary’s questioning of the seal hunt’s future.

But Thursday, there was fur on his back, as the St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP showed up to work in a sealskin vest.

He was trying to make sure people knew he backed the harvest.

“There’s been a lot of spin here, a hell of a lot of spin. I’m in the eye of the political spin and I want this to be clear: I support the commercial seal hunt,” he said in an interview.

Earlier this week, Cleary questioned the viability of the hunt during a CBC Radio interview.

“We know that the world appetite is not there for seal meat, but the world appetite for seal products, I don’t know if it’s there,” Cleary told the broadcaster.

“And you know what? I may be shot for talking about this, and for saying this, but it’s a question we all have to ask.”

The comments sparked a firestorm.

Some said the remarks were an insult to people in rural parts of province, and federal Conservative ministers said it appears Cleary has abandoned his support of local sealers.

Meanwhile, anti-sealing groups applauded — and interpreted. “(Cleary) has acknowledged that the tremendous outcry against beating and shooting baby seals has him questioning the future of the bloody massacre,” read an entry on the official blog of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Cleary said he has received emails from people from all sides, including some who say he won’t serve a second term and others encouraging him to run for prime minister.

When the ruckus started, Cleary explained he was calling for a debate to address the industry’s problems. He reiterated that Thursday, and approved of the discussion that’s been ignited.

“There’s debate about what’s going on with the hunt and its direction. Everybody is talking about it. That’s a good thing. Everybody is attacking me, that’s not a good thing, but it is a good thing for the industry?”

Cleary suggested the debate needs to happen to have a sustainable industry into the future.

He said he borrowed the vest from a friend, “until I can buy one, that I can afford.”

Eldred Woodford, president of the Canadian Sealers Association, didn’t appeared swayed by Cleary’s apparel.

“You can put on a Band-Aid on a cut, but not necessarily is that cut going to heal,” he quipped.

Woodford said he thought Cleary’s comments about the hunt were out of order.

He noted sealers have been working collaboratively with the federal and provincial governments to improve markets and the industry itself.

“We’ve done all the training required to make it a professional industry,” he said.

While he didn’t agree with Cleary’s remarks, Woodford did concur there needs to be a debate with the population in general.

“The majority of the population doesn’t understand the industry, other than the false propaganda portrayed by the animals rights groups.”

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @SteveBartlett_