Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Seal Clubbing: The Thin Edge of the Wedge

It’s all over the papers right now, the annual cull of seals in the Maritimes to keep the population in check, obtain pelts, create jobs, or whatever reason they do it for. There has been a lot of back and forth, but the reality of the situation is a baby harp seal pelt goes for as much as $70, and brings some $20 million to the economy. What has most people worked up is the increased limit from 5000 seals last year to 325,000 this year. It’s a touchy issue, primarily because seals are cute, and no one likes to see cute animals get clubbed, particularly pop icons like Paul McCartney, Bridgette Bardot and Morrissey. Morrissey (of the Smiths) has refused to come to Canada to play any dates on account of the annual tradition.

It has been called a ‘cull’ because it keeps the population of both the seals and the fish it feeds on at a sustainable level, however, I heard an interview with a spokesman from WWF WWF this morning who denied this, claiming that the impact that seals have on the fish stocks is negligible.

But the question still stands. Why do cute animals have any more rights than ugly ones? Cows have traditionally been killed in a rather barbarous way, as have chickens with the de-beakings and all. Fish die in rather torturous ways. Why the seals? Because they are cute.

To some this is hypocritical, to others a brilliant publicity opportunity.

From an animal-rights activist point of view, seals make for a great focus point. If the public can get stirred up about cute little seals it is the thin edge of the wedge to get them more concerned about other animal rights atrocities. Even this can be argued to be the thin edge of the wedge for humanist issues as well. If one is opposed to the torture of animals for fun and profit, what about the treatment of humans? Regardless, it is a kick start to a certain compassion for living creatures that can possibly be extended into a wider humanitarian view. Of course this does assume that animal rights activists are looking to preserve all life as we know it.


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