Last Monday, a World Trade Organization panel decided to uphold the European Union’s ban on Canadian seal products. It’s the latest addition to a string of blows to the struggling seal hunt over the past few years.
But if there is anything to be learned from this most recent setback, it’s that in the fight to keep the seal hunt viable, Canada is losing the publicity war.
This is old news, of course. But it takes on a new primacy when the WTO, an international trade-
regulating body, can rule that the ban is enforceable based on “ethical” reasons. If moral considerations the government has been fighting for years are being given binding consideration internationally, it becomes especially clear that the Canadian seal hunt lobby is fighting a losing battle.
The ethical grounds cited by the WTO, those rooted in the same pseudo-morality that spurred the ban (now widely supported by the European public, it is worthy to note) are the result of years of
misinformation from animal rights groups and the all-too-willing bleeding hearts of Hollywood.
They are the upshot of countless smear campaigns from the likes of Pamela Anderson, Jude Law and others world-renowned for their seminal contributions to science.
It is because of these “activists” that the celebrity bandwagon cries out against seal hunters’ thoughtless slaughter every time they see yet another photo of a seraphic seal pup plastered beneath the headlines. And it is because of these same people that the international public, basing its beliefs on a supposed moral high ground, rails against the Canadian government for permitting what it considers unnecessary inhumane animals culls.
These are the Mother Teresas who have infected the international community with the anti-sealing fervour that encouraged the WTO’s ruling.
All the while, this very same public, which salivates at the prospect of an end to the seal hunt, scarfs
down the latest Whopper, box of McNuggets or whatever other product of industrialized agriculture any of us consume on a regular basis.
The power of persuasion never ceases to amaze.
After the WTO handed down its decision, Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents 55,000 Canadian Inuit said, “They’re basing it on public morals … I mean, who’s to say what’s more cruel? Industrialized agriculture? The poultry, pork and beef industry?
“Who draws the line?”
And who knows, really?
But my bet is that the chicken and beef industry lobbies of Washington and Brussels are far more powerful than any seal hunt advocates.
Denouncing the seal hunt is perhaps made easier by the lack of seal meat on the menu at Burger King or the fact that most people associate seals with circus rings.
But no matter the reason, there is undoubtedly a detachment between seal-based products and the international public, and this complements efforts to denounce the hunt based on ethical concerns.
The seal hunt is an easy target for international animal rights groups, what with all the adorable baby seal pictures and the high shock value of the bloodstained pack ice left behind by the hunt. So it’s innocent enough to be fooled at first when activists play on one’s senses by warping of the truth.
However, once the message of an allegedly inhumane seal hunt pervades public opinion to the point that an international organization treats it as worthy of consideration, it becomes altogether clear that in the battle against misinformation, those on the side of the seal hunt are bleeding from the head.
It’s one thing for PETA or Pam Anderson to spew crap about Canadian sealers, but it is quite another when an organization like the WTO marginalizes the seal hunt based on what international public opinion deems credible ethical concerns.
Patrick Butler, who’s from Conception Bay South, is enrolled in the journalism
program at Carleton University.
He can be reached by email