(Continued: Part 2)

An Open Abattoir
Compare this with the open abattoir that is the commercial seal hunt. Seals are in their natural habitat prior to being killed. They are not crowded into cages, trapped, or transported. They are simply on the ice and in their natural environment as they always are. Sealers come to the seal, and not the other way around. The animals are under no visible stress. In fact, most seals are completely docile as they are used to being predators of the ice and ocean, not prey. The harp seal’s skull is smaller and thinner than any cattle or pig or other livestock, and therefore easily crushed. High velocity bullets and rifles in the hands of an experienced sealer can quickly deliver a shot that causes more damage to the seal’s skull (regardless of age) and brain matter than a captive bolt pistol on livestock.

The humaneness of the hunt is exemplified even more so by usage of the hakapik. The hakapik is a fail safe weapon for killing seals, and was designed specifically as such. Seals less than one year old (which in turn have considerably thinner, weaker skulls) are rendered unconscious or “stunned” by a single blow. Multiple blows are often administered to completely destroy the skull, cerebrum, cerebellum, and sever the brain stem ensuring death before exsanguination, something a captive bolt cannot and does not do. Seals are bled, but the animal is undoubtedly dead before the process begins. It can then be argued that seals are slaughtered quicker and more effectively than livestock in commercial slaughterhouses. The skull and contents destroyed and palpated to verify that sufficient damage has been inflicted, the eye is touched to ensure that not even involuntary reflexes and/or electricity is active in the body, and they are bled for a minimum of one minute before being pelted. By comparison with commercial slaughter, the process is about as humane as any type of slaughter gets.

So why the public outcry and protest against such a humane slaughter? It is based entirely on emotion and cultural imperialism. You can see the slaughter clearly because it takes place in the open and on a white surface, making blood appear much more gruesome. The tools that are used in the hunt are not conventional to the layperson, as many people do not even know what a hakapik is. The pelting and processing takes place in nature, and is not enclosed in walls meant to separate the general public from the kill. These factors combined with the mass propaganda efforts of animal rights groups who deceptively show spliced and altered video, images of the not-hunted whitecoat harp seal and blueback hooded seal, and the positively racist hate campaign perpetrated upon the maritime Canadians who participate in the hunt lead the public to believe that the practice is barbaric. The fact is, it is no more barbaric, and arguably less barbaric than the methods of slaughter that put the meat you regularly consume into those nice, clean, pretty packages at the supermarket.

To separate oneself from the kill, from the violence, the blood, the mess, the gruesome raw humanity of it all, is to lie to oneself. Convincing yourself that the leather on your back or the meat you consume came from animals that were slaughtered “acceptably,” and that the seal hunt is altogether different is essentially a lie. It is the wool pulled over the eyes of the everyday consumer that has lead to the seal hunt being viewed in such a derogatory way. A quote from Dr. Keith Rondald, Dean of the College of Biological Science at the University of Guelph further outlines the staggering humaneness of the hunt:

“From a total of 509 animals examined at this time there was reported to be only one other case of the animal not being rendered unconscious. This appears to be a fantastically high average of humane killing.” (99.82%)”

I am certainly not suggesting that the commercial slaughter of livestock is inhumane. I am merely suggesting that the Canadian Commercial Seal Hunt is more humane. The regulations are tighter and highly controlled for sealing as the sealers are in the view of anyone who cares to watch and document the hunt. The humane stunning practices are more precise and thorough than captive bolt pistols with the hakapik, and just as humane with the rifle in the hands of an experienced marksman. There are fail safe methods for ensuring unconsciousness or death that are never employed in slaughterhouses, and the animal is treated with utmost respect and dignity when compared to livestock slaughtered in abattoirs.

For Canadian sealers to be treated as so many cruel, heartless barbarians and viewed as inferior beings that are incapable of feeling is untrue, unfair, and unjust. Sealers, like slaughterhouse workers, are the means to an end. They tread through the blood and mess of animal slaughter every day to provide the consumer with the aesthetically pleasing finished product. Sealers are skilled hunters and trained professionals, and deserve the same respect that any abattoir worker would get. These people are human beings who are capable of humility, respect, and dignity towards all creatures, especially the seals they hunt.

Evan Vickers

Date: May 04, 2010

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