Activists Obscure Truth in Seal Hunt, Natural Order

By Jason Menard

I admire the tenacity of those PETA people, I truly do. But there comes a time and place where we need to learn to pick our battles. Nature’s a cruel mistress, and no amount of cajoling or grandstanding is going to make her change her mind – but in this new world, the key to survival isn’t related to brain-power, but how cute you look.

So Brigitte Bardot can grace us with her presence, she can stand before the horrifying image of a human baby lying dead on the ice, with a seal poised to deliver yet another blow with a club. Unfortunately, Bardot, Paul McCartney and a significant number of these well-meaning (I hope) animal-rights activist are being deliberately misleading in their commentary. And isn’t it interesting that a former bombshell and the one known as “the cute Beatle” are the ones lending their image to this fight.

In today’s world we’ve usurped natural Darwinism and replaced it with a more cosmetic version. And the images just obscure the issues.

Do a quick search on-line for anything relating to Canada’s annual seal hunt and you’ll be peppered with sites showing images of dewy-eyed baby seal pups, looking forlornly at the camera, with the implicit knowledge that some big, bad hunter is just waiting in the wings with a club ready to crush its little brains in.

Sorry, that’s just not the case. In fact, it’s illegal to hunt any seal that has yet to shed its newborn pelt. So that fluffy little cute seal we see is just fine.

Now, how about those ugly looking tuna? Nobody’s rushing to their rescue. We’ve accepted the fact that humans need to eat – although this logic doesn’t seem to matter to those opposing native seal-hunting rights, but I digress – and because tuna are big and ugly, we rarely see aging Brit-Poppers hanging out at the Star-Kist plant posing next to an image of an oppressed Charlie the Tuna.

But the dolphins that get caught in those nets that’s another story. We can’t kill the cute little dolphins – why, you may get Flipper! Yet, where’s the outrage over the loss of coral or pikas, both of which are on the World Wildlife Funds’ endangered species list? They don’t make for quite as appealing ad copy as baby snow leopards or orphaned pandas. Cows, pigs, and chickens are staples of our diet – but why do their lives deserve any less consideration than seals? Who is the final arbiter as to which animal gets to live and which is classified as livestock?

I really don’t know enough about seal hunting to know whether or not it’s something that should be supported. As someone who loves to tuck into a good steak, eats a heck of a lot of chicken, and enjoys the bounty of pork products that exist, I don’t feel I have the right to stand on a pulpit and pick and choose which animals are above becoming a meal or a jacket.

And, when statistics say that the seal population, despite the annual hunt, is flourishing, it’s hard for me to say that this practice is having a negative impact on the ecosystem. After all, it’s not like seals are in the predicament of African elephants, being killed simply for their tusks. These are animals that are, in many cases, being used as a significant source of the local economy and diet. This isn’t pleasure killing, this is nature at its base essence.

But the problem with this type of emotional advertising and grandstanding from activists like McCartney, Bardot – heck, even Pamela Anderson, is that the issue gets obscured by the image. While it’s effective in swaying those who only look at the surface of the issue, where is the open discussion for those willing to look at both sides of the story? Where are the facts, not just the emotions?

Baby seals photograph better than hunters (most of whom use guns, not clubs – but clubs make for more savage imagery), but where are the images of the native hunter bringing home food for the family. Or where’s the picture of the outpost fishing village whose very livelihood rests upon the continuance of the seal hunt?

The world has always been about predators and prey. Not to go all Lion King here, but there is a circle of life at play, wherein animals and nature work symbiotically to maintain a balance. Just as deforestation, global warming, and hunting for profit can irreparably damage nature’s precarious order, could not overprotecting animals have the same sort of effect?

For the average person who just wants to do right by the world, the answers aren’t evident. And, unfortunately for us, the greatest thing that’s being obscured by this drama, hyperbole, imagery, and emotion, is the truth.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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