|When Alan Herscovici hears animal-rights activists question the sustainability of Canada's $30-million per year seal industry, the executive vice-president of the Fur Council of Canada says such talk smacks of hypocrisy. And with March 15 designated as the World Day of Action Against Seal Hunting--complete with a protest in Ottawa--that sort of rhetoric will no doubt be presented to the media as fact.
Herscovici argues that the seal hunt is indeed sustainable; but so is the industry that has been protesting it for about 40 years. "The animal-rights groups learned through their sealing campaign that there's a lot of money to be made," explains Herscovici, who authored Second Nature: The Animal Rights Controversy, a book published in 1985 outlining canards spread among animal-rights activists. "Protesting has been a great sustainable resource for them. You can make more money attacking the industry than what the industry itself makes."
Animal rights activists try to convey that the seal population is in danger of extinction, explains Elizabeth Cundill of the Fur Institute of Canada. "The seals don't need saving," says the succinct Nova Scotian. The harp seal population has been increasing steadily to the point where today there are an estimated 5.8 million off the Atlantic coast; nearly triple the numbers there were in the seventies, according to the boasts of Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn. In 2006, the minister set the number of seals that could be hunted at 325,000, or 5.6 per cent of the total population.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare, and groups like it, cut their teeth protesting Atlantic and Inuit sealers back in 1969. Today it has evolved into an organization with annual revenue of US$80 million. "It's ironic that even when the main issue of conservation in animal welfare has been dealt with, this thing keeps growing. They've learned they can get a lot of publicity from it, and it becomes a machine in its own right," says Herscovici.
It looks as if the nonsensical hysteria drummed up by IFAW and like organizations (with the help of sanctimonious celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney) has had an effect on the policies of certain countries, including the U.S., which since 1972 has banned seal imports. "There's something hypocritical when . . . the U.S. or Europe bans seal products when 95 per cent of their populations eat meat," says Herscovici, adding that the U.S. kills upward of 9 million deer per year.
But it's easy for Europeans and Americans to be anti-Canadian in order to pander to their left-wing vote. Not too many Newfoundlanders or Inuit vote in their elections.