Sunday, March 05, 2006

Going Clubbing

Beatles fans can normally be divided into 2 camps: the Lennonists & the McCartneyites. I was firmly ensconced among the former - thought McCartney, although talented, lost whatever edge he had when the group disbanded (and arguably before). I too muttered dark comments like "the wrong Beatle died" many Decembers ago. Hated Wings. Loathed his solo material: the visions of his duets with Michael Jackson still pepper my nightmares. Twenty, thirty, forty years fly by, and here we are in 2006. Paul McCartney is still around (1 of the 2 less interesting Beatles still casting a shadow on the earth). When I see McCartney on TV, I still cringe. His voice hasn't held up & I don't want to see a 63-year old try to belt out rock & roll. It's not very attractive.

But I have been grudgingly warming up to him these past few years. Not for his music - ohhhhh, no worries on that front - but because of the basic human & animal rights that he and his late wife Linda, and current wife Heather espouse. They've raised world awareness of the horrors of landmines, the $2 million trade in cat & dog pelts in Asia and in Europe and the continuing need for blood transfusions. Philanthropic gazillionaires with craploads of media attention always give me hope for this world.

Where am I going with this, you may well ask? - the McCartneys have recently visited Canada. Why? - to do what others have come before they and failed to do: stop the commercial seal hunt. Will they succeed? - I highly doubt it.

The seal hunt is a hot button issue in Canada, as it weighs the needs of an economically disenfranchised community (historically given the short end of the stick by central Canada) against the rights of doe-eyed seals (historical
ly given the sharp end of a club). Every March, hunters take to the ice floes of Atlantic Canada (chiefly in the St. Lawrence Gulf area around the Magdalen Islands and Prince Edward Island) to partake in the world's 2nd largest "harvest" of wildlife (numerically, the kangaroos Down Under fare worse) - specifically, harp, hooded & grey seals.
A few weeks later, a 2nd front is opened up off of Newfoundland. With rifles and hakapiks (spiked clubs), they will reduce the herds of weeks' old seals - seals that are too young to leave the floes and enter the waters to search for food - by over 300,000. Thousands more will wash up on shores as collateral damage - seals that did not die immediately, seals that were out of reach of the hunters.

In the mid 70's, horrific images of bludgeoned baby seals - known as juveniles or "whitecoats" - lying at the feet of club-wielding hunters reached the world. My best friend Cathy and I went door-to-door, handing out leaflets, obtaining signatures for a petition. It was probably my first act of conscientious unselfishness. Movie stars (of the "B" variety) were photographed, shielding the seal pups with their own ski-bunny-esque bodies from the blows of hunters. The seal fur market collapsed but would eventually rally back. Under pressure from animal rights activists, the federal government placed a ban on the killing of juvenile white coats in 1987. Having said tha
t, "whitecoats" lose their white coats within 2 weeks of birth and are then fair game to the sealers. A death sentence stayed, not commuted. Most seals are less than 3 month's old when killed; their waterproof pelts averaging $70 on the market.

Like the Beatles, there are 2 camps which remain deeply polarised: the hunt supporters and the animal rights activists. Each is armed to the teeth with data and statistics on economic impact, cod stocks, environmental concerns, and the cruelty of the kill itself.
It's the Government of Canada and the Department of Fisheries against the WWF, IFAW, WSPA and PETA. The Canadian Humane Association vs. the Human Society of the United States, Paul McCartney vs. Danny Graham, the Premier of Newfoundland. It is a war of words. Words, like the hunter's hakapik, are powerful weapons. Economic disaster, menace, natual resource, conservation, traditional way of life, innocent sea creatures, skinning alive, harvest, bloodbath - the rhetoric weighs heavily on both sides of the divide. Every year there ar
e protests. Every year the hunt is defended by fisheries experts. In the 30-odd years of protesting the seal hunt and defending its practices, of monitoring the "alleged" abuses, the World Society for the Protection of Animals still contends that, "accounts persist of animals which are skinned alive or dragged aboard boats using gaff hooks."

And so, in a maelstrom of media attention, the McCartneys arrived. Helicoptered into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, they surveyed the whelping grounds, took photos, had photos taken, made a public plee to newly-elected (by a minority) Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ban the hunt. A few days ago, they took their war against sealing to a higher level and appeared on CNN's Larry King Live. A transcript of the interview can be found here. Particularly interesting was the heated debate between the McCartney's and Premier Danny Graham who illustrated his own keen ability to obfuscate the facts with 9-11 rhetoric, by straying off topic and being a condecending patronizing prick.


"There's a point where people who don't respect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and who don't treat us with respect, will get it back in spades from me," he said. "I certainly wasn't going to allow the McCartneys to dominate that interview.

Uhhh, well said, Danny. Because that's what this all about: Paul McCartney wants to diss Newfs. I guess you won't be inviting him to play in St. John's any time soon.

One sealer has conceded that the McCartneys may be a different class of protester than those who have graced eastern ice floes in the past - less flakey & more powerful. I can't help but think that any impact they have will be as fleeting as the spring ice. Media attention on the killing grounds of Canada only seems to entrench sealers' resolve to continue shooting & clubbing, and it is unlikely that the federal government will be greatly intimidated. This seasonal danse macabre makes me ashamed to be Canadian.

But I must admit that I'm pretty proud of the old geezer - I am not quite prepared to forgive him for Silly Love Songs, but maybe for Michelle. The time has come (the walrus said) to close the book on the seal hunt - we don't need it. Seal meat, seal oil - both dying industries. If you wouldn't wear your dog's coat, why kill a seal? There are viable economic alternatives for the Atlantic provinces, and no one on allah's green earth is going to convince me that these creatures are dispatched humanely.
Seals don't have a serious impact on cod stocks - it was us that fucked that one up with overfishing. Oh, and a 500 year old custom, a traditional way of life? Yeah, well so was slavery & child labour. Precedent doesn't make it right.


As the t-shirt says, "club sandwiches, not seals".

p.s. Click on this link to send a letter of protest to the "Right Honourable" Stephen Harper, Canada's Prime Minister.

19 Comments:

Anonymous chrisso said...

Well said! You're right, no one can or should ever forgive Sir Paul for stinkers like "Say, Say' Say" but I applaud Heather and him for their efforts. As for Danny Williams, he should take that flagpole - the one where a few months back he took down the Canadian flag as protest for off shore oil revenues - and shove it as far up his asshole as it will go. Go ahead and seperate Newfoundland, like anyone else in the world will care. Let's just make sure that we get the seal hunt banned there and across Canada first!

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Cath said...

Sir Pall and Linda Jr. have put me right off my seal-flipper pie. But it was worth it to see Danny Williams in full Newfie rant. No one rants like the Newfs.

6:16 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

Well, we've disagreed on this issue over the years, and I'm afraid that we'll continue to disagree. To me, the seal hunt is analagous to any meat animal that's farmed and slaughtered - except that it's more humane.

I know that you're a vegetarian, C in R, but I don't see you boycotting all grocery stores until they stop selling meat. To be consistent, that's what you should be doing, because in my mind, most farm animals that are raised for meat are treated far worse than those seal pups.

And, I'm sorry, but the fact that it's a 500 year old custom and that it puts a few bucks into the pockets of some residents that live in some of the more economically depressed parts of Canada ~is~ relevent. Despite promises made over the past 30 years, no government has provided an economic alternative to those sealers. These poor schmucks have a "made at home" solution that puts money in their pockets. Why can't they just be left alone to their own devices?

Don't get me wrong, if the seal hunt stopped tomorrow, I wouldn't be upset. What upsets me is outsiders coming here to tell Newfies and Magdellenos how to run their lives, when perhaps those people should clean up problems in their own backyards, and even in their own lives.

How many mansions and residences do the McCartneys own? How many cars? How often do they fly? Given their incredibly lavish and ostentatious lifestyle, do you have any idea how huge their environmental footprint is? How many people do you think are going to die a premature death from cancer due to all the pollutants that this guy and his family have spewed into the air over the course of his life? And this bloated over-the-hill no-talent do-gooder is flying in to the iceflows to tell a bunch of guys making $20,000 a year how to run their lives? This guy is telling ~me~ how to run my life?

Sorry, but this is one battle of yours that I can't join you in.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous chrisso said...

First of all Knarf, let’s not cloud the issue. We are talking about the seal hunt and not about farm animals or vegetarianism. But your point about boycotting grocery stores is off base. Meat, obviously, is just one of the items that grocery stores sell. Larger chains like Loblaw’s/Superstore and Sobey’s all recognize the growing number of vegans and vegetarians and now have sections devoted to them and to organic foods. A boycott wouldn’t make sense. We should applaud these stores for reacting to the changing needs of many of their customers. Being a vegetarian is not only about protesting and boycotting, but also about giving companies credit when it’s due. And yes, many farm animals do suffer a worse fate than some seals but that is one of the many reasons why we are vegetarians.

If the seal hunt were banned or even worse, seals became an endangered species or extinct, what would happen to these hunters? How would it be any different than if a small town in New Brunswick loses its only employer in town? Because they’re Newfs or Magdellenos they should be treated differently then others who could lose a source of income?

As far as the money in their pockets: The economic value of the seal hunt is open to interpretation. The federal government says the landed value of seals was $16.5 million in 2004, providing a "significant" source of income for thousands of sealers – benefiting them and their families. Anti-sealing groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare describes the contribution of sealing to Newfoundland's GDP as "trivial" and says after costs and indirect subsidies are taken into account (like patrolling the hunt, upgrading plants, promoting the hunt, and developing new markets for seal products) that Canadians would "likely find that the hunt actually costs the Canadian taxpayer money." So I guess it's what camp do you want to believe.

While I agree that he is an over the hill musician, Paul McCartney is not telling people here how to run their lives. He is asking that the government of Canada put an end to the seal hunt and to provide hunters and their families with other alternatives or assistance. I also think you are way over the top with your “How many people do you think are going to die a premature death from cancer due to all the pollutants that this guy and his family have spewed into the air over the course of his life?” I’m sorry. Are you serious? Does he run the United States, China, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia who are the six major polluters of the World? The oil refineries? Almost every major corporation? Should Forbes magazine publish the 100 celebrities of the world who are killing people by giving them cancer?

While I completely respect your opinion, I am glad that you won’t be joining us on this battle.

6:37 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

Chrisso,

We're talking about slaughtering animals, right? I'm saying that an animal slaughtered in an abbatoir goes through a lifetime of suffering before (s)he's slaughtered, and that it's ethically and morally no different than what's happening to baby seals.

Your point WRT grocery stores is well taken; certainly, as a vegetarian you want to encourage them to cut down on meat and sell more vegetarian goods. A boycott won't be effective in that regard. However, it seems to me that if one's going to protest the seal hunt, then to be ethically consistant, one should also protest meatpackers of all sorts.

I'm not sure what your point is WRT mill towns or small single-employer towns. It's tragic to the local economy when paper mills or mines or whatever close down; in the same way the local economies of Newfoundland and the Magdellan Islands would be adversely affected by stopping the seal hunt.

I don't know who to believe when it comes to how much money the various levels of government spend on the hunt. Suffice to say that individuals, most of whom are far from wealthy, will suffer if the hunt is stopped. No industry will replace it. They will simply lose that income. If that's a trade-off that you're willing to make for stopping the hunt, then you're entitled to that opinion. I won't try to change you're mind. As long as we're all aware of the human cost of such decisions, then we can make an informed decision. I respect you for yours - I just don't agree at this point.

As far as McCartney and his huge environmental footprint, you're damned right I'm serious. I hate rich fucks who can afford to be "activists" and tell us what's good for the world, while they live obscene lifestyles with numerous estates, dozens of gas-guzzling cars, private jets, all of which pollute and use increasingly scarce fossil fuels at an alarming rate. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the seal hunt, but the man's a fucking hypocrite. If he gave a shit about the people involved in these hunts (rather than only the cute little seals), he'd take some of the estimated $2 Billion (yes, that's Billion with a B) that he's worth and set up an economically viable replacement industry in Newfoundland or the Magdellan Islands. But he won't. Because all he's interested in is a photo op, and to show he "cares".

As far as the major polluting countries, you're right, they are who they are. And people who live obscene lifestyles like McCartney are a part of the problem, not the solution. Maybe there's no tie-in in your mind, but to me, anyone who leads a lifestyle like his, which degrades the world that we live in, is in no position to tell anyone else what to do WRT the environment - and that includes the seal hunt.

BTW, that attack against McCartney actually has nothing to do with the morality (or lack thereof) of the seal-hunt. It's all about him and his celebrity buddies, and their penchant for not practising what they preach.

I'm a fairly open-minded person - really. It may be that I can be convinced that the seal hunt is wrong and should be banned. Sadly, this is hardly the forum for this discussion, as there isn't the space for a proper dialogue. I'd love to discuss it as friends over a Prop some day. I really don't want to change anyone else's mind, or tell them what to think on this issue, and I'm always open to hear the views of others (even you!) :-)

I have yet to hear a convincing argument that the hunt is either immoral or should be shut down. I'm certainly open to hearing more argument, however.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Chrisso did an admirable job addressing a number of your issues, so I will try to focus my attentions on your last point: immorality. In my mind, the seal hunt is immoral because it is not a hunt: it is the slaughtering (or to use the politically correct term "culling") of hundreds of thousands of literally defenseless infant animals. Defenseless? - they are not old enough to swim away from harm, to escape. It is analagous to shooting fish in a barrel. Perhaps I am naive to expect that an animal (even that raised for food) be allowed to live for more than 3 weeks; many meat eaters eschew eating veal for much the same reasons. To make matters worse, seals are not killed en masse for their meat but for their fur. It is a slaughter executed almost entirely for vanity and luxury and therefore, in my eyes, unnecessary and again, immoral. In my bonfire of the vanities, the fur coats will be the first to see the flames. It also is an incredibly wasteful hunt and I believe waste to be immoral. Farley Mowat (as a Canadian I hope you will allow him his opinion) estimates that for every seal landed, another is shot and lost under the ice, not to be included in the quota.

I know full well what happens in North American abattoirs - I know the trauma that surrounds the killing of meat animals. I know about the horrific practices happening in hatcheries. How anyone can eat chicken defies my understanding of humankind. Danny Graham himself said that the seal hunt was "no worse" than what happens in a slaughterhouse. That's reason enough to ban it. Knarf, I do what I can to alleviate all animal suffering: I choose not to support the charnel houses known as agrifarms, I write letters to government officials in many countries, I sign petitions against unethical the practices of private indivduals and companies. It is all, at the present, I can do. J'accuse - I have every right to tell the owners of the Moscow Circus that they must stop the violence against animals - it is my right as a member of this global village that we all share. If the McCartneys choose to ask our government to ban the hunt, let them. We can't live as isolationists. If our emperor is wearing no clothes and we don't have the eyes to see it, we should be told so. It doesn't mean that we have to so as they say, but we should be able to embrace other opinions, to embark in dialogues with our peers.

I am not a McCartney fan but I defend his right to point fingers. I defend anyone's right to do so, rich or poor. Did you vilify your own sacred cows when they stood up against human rights abuses, did you cast aspersions on Michael Stipe (for example) when he challenged China's presence in Tibet? Why is the seal hunt moral but China's continued existence as a House of Horrors for animals reprehensible?

I doubt that I will ever persuade you to see my point of view vis-a-vis the seal hunt.It's been almost 30 years and you haven't changed your position, which tells me that I'm a lousy rhetorician. What saddens me the most is your ambivalence.

10:14 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

You may persuade me, who knows. You ate meat for over 4 decades, and only in the past few years did you decide that it was wrong (or at least wrong enough to stop doing it).

I'm not perfect, and I don't claim any moral superiority over anyone else (I'm not saying you do, BTW). All I said is that I've not yet been convinced that it's morally wrong. No, let me put it another way:

I don't see morals as black and white (again, I'm not saying you do). There can be lots of grey areas. Morals are (or at least can be) relative. The hunt (or slaughter, or whatever one wishes to call it) is ugly, messy, bloody, and not much fun for anyone involved. I'd go so far as to say that I'd be happy if it were stopped.

However, sometimes morals can be a balancing act. I say that the right of people to make a living must sometimes be considered against the relative "wrongness" of an activity.

Would I deny an oilfield worker his right to earn a living as against all the evil that has been perpetrated on this world on behalf of the oil industry? Would I deny someone working in the defence industry the right to make a living? I think that the result of their labours is wrong, but I won't stop them from feeding themselves or their children - it's a pretty freaking complex world out there.

That's currently what I think about the seal slaughter. Will I ever change my mind? Maybe.

If someone really did provide alternative jobs, I'd say it's not necessary.

To me, right now, it's something similar to hunting for pleasure (which I think is morally reprehensible, BTW). I don't like it, I wish it wasn't done, but it is and I'll live with the fact that others do it, and I'll respect them for doing so. Okay, I won't respect them for doing so, but I'll not deny them their humanity for doing so.

I see the seal slaughter as a necessary evil, if you will. I also see it as something that's not nearly as evil as a lot of other things that are happening in this world.

Don't stop this dialogue with me - don't think you've "failed as a rhetorician" because you haven't brought me to your view - that's more me than you, I assure you.

I'm not closing my mind to the issue, I assure you - I rarely do for any issue.

Can we discuss this in another forum, perhaps next time we meet or speak? I think it may be a better place for this...

10:59 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

"Can we discuss this in another forum, perhaps next time we meet or speak? I think it may be a better place for this..." you say this now after 20 paragraphs???!!

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Cath said...

Jeezus! I think Larry King may be interested....

12:08 AM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

.... or Jerry Springer

12:45 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

All I meant, C in R, is that I've used enough bandwidth on the matter already, and I was prepared to say that I'd said enough on this forum.

However, if you're going to mock me, that's fine. If you're going to say that this is worthy of a Jerry Springer episode, that's fine too.

I tried to say that I can see your point of view, and I'm trying to keep an open mind on the matter. If you don't respect that, and if you don't think that I'm worth discussing the matter with, if you don't think that I'm worth "converting", well, there's not much I can do about that.

My last word on the subject...

1:02 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Knarf: it was joke! I appreciate your responses & agree that the conversation could be moved elsewhere.

2:40 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

I lied. ~This~ is my last word.

My apologies to anyone that I insulted. I wish especially to apologize to C in R for my last post.

I realize that this is an emotionally charged subject, and that individuals on either side of the issue can become excited, myself included.

McCartney (even if he is a bloated rich asshole) has the right to think whatever he does, and his personal choices in other matters, even though I may not agree with them, have nothing to do with whether he's correct on this issue.

Again, apologies for all the hyperbole and stridency. I respect the opinions on every side of this issue, and I continue to consider all sides while my personal opinion evolves in this matter.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

No offence taken - but no flipper pie for supper.

2:42 PM  
Blogger knarf said...

eat your darts

7:56 PM  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Eat monster ... eat!

8:30 PM  
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7:18 AM  
Blogger Table Mountains said...

*Quote: Danny Graham, the Premier of Newfoundland,

it's danny williams not danny graham.
if the seals ever became an endagered species,newfoundlanders would be the first to call for a stop to the hunt.
please drop by my blog and comment if you wish.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Hi All~

Have a voice to help protect the seals in Canada. Go to www.StopTheSealHunt.com.

www.StopTheSealHunt.com is specifically designed to increase awareness and
help fight the annual Canadian commercial seal hunt, which is, as you might
know, the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world. And as you
also might know, unfortunately this year's total allowable catch has been
raised to 325,000 seal pups shot or clubbed for their pelts (and some
skinned while still alive), starting at the very young age of only two
weeks.

You'll see that StopTheSealHunt.com explains several easy ways to
help stop this annual baby seal hunt, including signing petitions to Prime
Ministers and Senators, and simply emailing our friends to help spread the
word.

Thanks in advance for spreading the word (it WILL make a difference), and for sharing this info!

Cheers,
Nicole

4:43 PM  

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