Every spring, Canada holds the biggest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world: seal hunting. It is based in Inuit traditions, but it became a huge leather business. For example, the quota in 2010 was 330,000 seals. The seal hunt is not necessarily known for the amount of seals they kill, but for the way the seals are killed.
Most commercial sealers will use firearms, but as the leather is the most expensive seal product, to keep their pelt untouched,some of them will kill the seals with a hook on the head of a stick. Copying the Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations, “Every person who strikes a seal with a club or hakapik shall strike the seal on the top of the cranium until it has been crushed and shall immediately palpate the cranium to confirm that it has been crushed. And if its not crushed, you should strike the seal again.”
The Beginning of the End?
But maybe we are seeing the beginning of the end of this industry. This is the second year in a row that the hunt has to be canceled in Hay Island, due to the lack of customers for the pelts. The worldwide crisis could be one of the reasons, but there are more important ones.
Due to the bad reputation of the seal hunt, many governments around the world have closed their borders for seal products, including Russia, the most important market, Europe and the United States. So the sealers are willing to continue with the hunting as they say that they have customers; however, the bad publicity and politics may say otherwise. On the other side, according to the director of the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition, “this is another sign the commercial industry is dying”. Anti-sealers think that this is the perfect moment for the Canadian government to act, and invest in a sealing industry buyout.
Buyouts can be a tough issue as they tend to only benefit the recipients for a few years. The recipients are forced to change livelihoods from one that has been based on generations of tradition to a new career for which they may not qualify or want. As you can imagine, there is always a resistance to change and it will be interesting to see what will happen to the hunters in the near future if the Canadian seal hunt stops for good.
Do you think the hunters should be bought out by the government if the seal hunt stops? Let us know in the comments below!