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Farley Mowat, acclaimed Canadian author, dead at 92 May 7, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Art, Literature and Culture, Canada, Environment.
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Roger’s note: Farley Mowat was indeed one of the great Canadians of our time.  He was a one of a kind genuine character, and this was reflected both in his writing as well as his public appearances.  He was a great warrior against injustice to both human and non-human animals, an outspoken critic of the execeses of capitalism and imperialism.  For his views and his labors he was denied entry to the United States, which to my mind is a proud badge of honour.  I have read only his major works, and I was most fond of  his two books on the life and work of Dian Fossey and his autobiographic, “My Father’s Son.”  I compare Farley Mowat to Mark Twain and Jack London.  If you haven’t yet discovered his writing, you are in for a real treat.  Canada will mourn the loss of a national treasure.

 

Outspoken writer of 45 books, including the popular Never Cry Wolf, was famed for his unwavering, fearless focus on protecting nature.

By: Dianne Rinehart Book Reporter, Published on Wed May 07 2014

Acclaimed Canadian author and outspoken environmentalist Farley Mowat died Tuesday at 92 — only days shy of his 93rd birthday.

His family has not issued a statement, but his brother John requested privacy for the family, while the author’s website noted: “To allow for Farley’s family and friends to mourn, book sales will be suspended until further notice.”

The author, whose famous books on nature such as Never Cry Wolf delighted readers for five decades, was still active in campaigns to protect nature in his beloved country right up to the end. In fact he was recently quoted on CBC’s The Current, complaining in his trademark indignant and energetic manner about a plan to increase Wi-Fi service in Canada’s national parks.

“My thoughts can be expressed quite simply. I think it is a disastrous, quite stupid, idiotic concept and should be eliminated immediately,” he said.

“I have very strong feelings that national parks, provincial parks, any kind of parks, that are theoretically set up to provide for the protection of nature, in some form or another, should be respected absolutely and ultimately, and human beings should be kept out of them as much as possible.”

Mowat was never one to back away from controversy — or the work he loved.

Acclaimed Canadian author Farley Mowat has died at 92. This photograph was taken at his home in Port Hope in 2012 when he was profiled in the Toronto Star.

Vince Talotta / Toronto Star Order this photo

Acclaimed Canadian author Farley Mowat has died at 92. This photograph was taken at his home in Port Hope in 2012 when he was profiled in the Toronto Star.

A 2012 Star profile of the author of 45 books — from People of the Deer (1952), to his memoirs Otherwise (2008) and Eastern Passage(2010) — described him as still rising at 6:30 a.m. to walk his dog and then get down to writing after enjoying breakfast with his wife, Claire.

“By 8 he’s writing, driven by the passion, the hot blood, the rage and the awe of the wonders of the natural world that have always enlivened Mowat’s adventure yarns,” late Star journalist Greg Quill wrote.

Mowat’s friends, authors Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, told the Star in an email: “We are deeply sorry to hear this sad news. Farley was a great and iconic Canadian who understood our environmental problems decades before others did. He loved this country with a passion and threw himself into the fray — in wartime as well, also with a passion. He was so good-natured and down to earth. We will miss him very much.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Wednesday on Parliament Hill: “I’d like to start by reflecting on the sad news that we just learned that Farley Mowat has just passed away. He was a family friend from my childhood; he came up to Harrington Lake a few times. He got along great with my father. And actually, he gave us a Labrador retriever we called Farley, who had a penchant for running after porcupines, as I remember.

“But Mr. Mowat was obviously a passionate Canadian, who shaped a lot of my generation growing up with his books and he will be sorely missed.”

Mowat was also godfather to Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s 22-year-old daughter, Victoria Cate.

“He was family,” May said as she absorbed the news of his death, which came as a surprise to her. She had been planning to call Mowat on Monday to wish him a happy 93rd birthday.

The two old friends spoke about a month ago, and May said Mowat was still brimming with energy and ideas — and his usual outrage against the Conservative government.

Mowat was born in Belleville, Ont., in 1921, the son of a librarian, and grew up in Belleville, Richmond Hill, Trenton, Windsor, Saskatoon and Toronto. At the age of 13 the budding environmentalist founded a newsletter, Nature Lore, and wrote a weekly column on birds for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix.

He served in the Second World War from 1940 to 1945, taking part in the invasion of Sicily and later mainland Italy before working as an intelligence officer in the Netherlands in 1945.

Through his writing about nature and animals, he became an ardent environmentalist.

“For the last 25 years he’s been the international chair of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and I’ve been on the board of the Farley Mowat Foundation,” Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, told the Star by phone.

The society even named a ship after Farley.

Watson, who last spoke to Mowat two weeks ago, was astonished at the news of his death. “He was upbeat. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with him. It’s very sudden.”

He said thousands of people around the world have become environmental activists through reading Mowat’s books. “He was a very close friend.”

Mowat’s books have sold more than 14 million copies in 20 languages in 60-plus countries.

They have “defined the Canadian wilderness for readers all over the world — the landscape, the isolation, the weather, animal and native life — with a heightened sense of reality no other writer has achieved over the past six decades,” Quill wrote after visiting Mowat at his Port Hope home.

Mowat won many awards for his writing over the decades: he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal in 1956, the Governor General’s Award for Lost in the Barrens in 1956, the Leacock Medal for Humour for The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float in 1970, the Order of Canada in 1981 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2003.

Five of his books were turned into feature or TV movies: The Snow Walker (2003), Lost in the Barrens (1990), Lost in the Barrens II: The Curse of the Viking Grave (1992), Never Cry Wolf (1983) and A Whale for the Killing (1981).

While he was much loved, he also had his critics. The now defunct Saturday Night magazine published a 1996 exposé, “A Real Whopper,” about him written by former Star writer John Goddard, questioning the authenticity of Mowat’s stories.

“For years I felt the Toronto media were out to bury me alive,” Mowat told the Star in 2012, referring to latter-day efforts in the literary community to reassess his work according to journalistic standards of accuracy and truth.

“That was never my game,” he said. “I took some pride in having it known that I never let facts get in the way of a good story. I was writing subjective non-fiction all along.”

Despite the criticism, Ronald Wright, a historian, novelist and essayist who has studied Mowat’s works, told the Star in 2012, “he has always gone his own way, a powerful defender of the oppressed and mistreated — from Canada’s native peoples to the many other beings with which we share this Earth. . . . Like the literary reportage of George Orwell and Ryszard Kapuscinski, which has drawn similar attacks, Farley Mowat’s work is loved worldwide and will outlive its critics.”

Mowat’s immense archives — they take up 350 boxes — are housed at McMaster University. Rick Stapleton, an archivist who worked closely with Mowat, was also shocked by the writer’s sudden death.

“He was in good spirits when I talked to him last week,” Stapleton said. “He said he had a clean bill of health and was heading down to his summer home in Cape Breton for the summer.”

Stapleton said the archives hold at least 100 letters from children thanking him for his books.

Mowat leaves behind his wife of 56 years, Claire, a novelist, memoirist and author of illustrated children’s books, and two children, David and Sandy.

With a file from Susan Delacourt

Wolf Killings are Based on the Most Cynical of Premises January 18, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Canada.
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Published on Friday, January 18, 2013 by The Guardian

Governments in Russia, Canada and Scandinavia claim they need to protect lesser species and habitats – while continuing their smash and grab raid on natural resources

by George Monbiot

A wolf hunter in Hasselforsreviret, Sweden. (Photo: Anders Wiklund/AFP/Getty Images)

If, as she has threatened, Brigitte Bardot moves to Russia in protest at the treatment of animals in France, she’s in for a major shock.

A couple of weeks ago, the former actress warned that if two circus elephants thought to be carrying tuberculosis are killed as a result of a ruling by a French court, she will follow Gérard Depardieu by applying for a Russian passport:

“If those in power are cowardly and impudent enough to kill the elephants … then I have decided I will ask for Russian nationality to get out of this country which has become nothing more than an animal cemetery”.

As a general principle, I think anyone who threatens to move to another country if they don’t get their way should be obliged to do so. This, for example, would rid the United Kingdom of some of its greediest and most demanding bankers who, despite their promises, are still here. And Tracey Emin.

But if Bardot does move to Russia, which I reckon is about as likely as Vladimir Putin being elected to the board of Amnesty International, she’ll find that France’s record on the treatment and protection of animals, while often brutal, is almost exemplary by comparison to her adopted country’s. Take for example the decree on Tuesday by the president of the Sakha Republic (also known as Yakutia) in Siberia.

There are 3,500 wolves in Sakha, which sounds like a lot until you discover that the republic is the size of India. President Yegor Borisov wants to reduce the population to 500 through an intensive three-month hunt, supported by a state of emergency, bounties for every wolf shot and a prize of 1m roubles for the hunters who kill the most.

This “emergency” massacre is necessary, he claims, because wolves are killing too many domestic animals. Last year, apparently, they incurred 5m roubles’ (£103,500) worth of losses – considerably less than the likely cost of the wolf hunt. Would it not make more sense to use the money to compensate the farmers? Would it not make more sense to protect the wolves’ natural prey: animals such as hares which are currently being overhunted by people, driving the wolves to look elsewhere for food?

In November, when I wrote about plans to exterminate wolves in Norway, some of those who supported the killings wrote to me to explain that there are plenty of wolves in Russia, so why bother protecting them in Scandinavia? Doubtless the Russian supporters of Borisov’s bloodbath will respond that there are plenty of wolves left in Canada, so why bother protecting them in Russia?

Well they too are likely to be disappointed, as similar massacres are being planned there, on the most cynical of premises.

In Alberta, the province systematically corrupted and brutalised by the oil curse, and whose polluted politics are now corrupting public life throughout Canada, the government plans to carry out a mass killing of wolves by shooting them from helicopters and poisoning them with strychnine.

The reason, ostensibly, is to protect the woodland caribou, a subspecies of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus caribou), whose numbers have been diminishing rapidly. This, according to the Alberta Caribou Committee, is because wolves have been killing them.

So what is this Alberta Caribou Committee? As you might expect, it represents all the usual environmental organisations, such as, er, PetroCanada, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Koch Petroleum, TransCanada Pipelines, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries and the pulp company Daishowa Marubeni.

Between them they have decided – and apparently convinced both the provincial and federal governments – that the problem afflicting the province’s caribou is not the fragmentation of their habitat by seismic lines, pipelines, roads, oil platforms, timber cutting and the transformation of pristine forest into wasteland by tar sands operations, but the natural predator with which the species has lived for thousands of years.

Never mind that analysis of wolves’ feces show that they eat very few caribou, as they prefer to hunt deer. Never mind that the woodland caribou is highly susceptible to disturbance, and that all the evidence points to the destruction of their habitat as the major factor causing their decline. Something other than the smash and grab exploitation now raging across Saudi Alberta must be to blame. And what better scapegoat could there be than the animal demonised for centuries on both sides of the Atlantic?

Wolf killing is the excuse the federal government needs to remove protection from all but 5% of pristine woodland caribou habitat. As Cliff Wallis of the Alberta Wilderness Association points out “The plan gives the appearance of doing something, but the details read ‘business as usual’ for Alberta oil sands, oil and gas and forestry.” Killing wolves suggests that the caribou are being protected, even while they are being driven to extinction by scarcely regulated industry. Already, hundreds of wolves have been shot and poisoned: now the government intends to intensify this effort.

Something similar is happening in British Columbia. In November a wolf-killing competition, sponsored among others by the Peace River Rod and Gun Club, was announced. It will take place across the winter, and offers cash prizes for the hunters who kill the biggest and smallest wolves. The wolves are driven to exhaustion by snowmobiles, then shot.

Like Alberta’s, the provincial government of British Columbia plans to relax the regulations governing the killing of wolves and to wipe them out in some parts of the province. Again, the excuse is to protect caribou; which again are threatened primarily by human activities.

So I wonder what the advocates of the wolf massacres in Canada will say: don’t worry about our populations, because they’re thriving in Russia, I mean Norway, I mean Edinburgh zoo?

You cannot rely on other countries to do what you refuse to do at home. There’s only one place in which a government can be sure of protecting wildlife, and that’s the place over which it has jurisdiction.

© 2013 George Monbiot
George Monbiot

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com

‘Gay’ Penguins to Be Separated at Toronto Zoo November 15, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Humor, LGBT.
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Roger’s note: I don’t know if we need to alert the gay rights or the animal rights folks; but something has to be done for poor Buddy and Pedro!

Nov 8, 2011 12:25pm
ht pedro buddy penguins jef 111108 wblog Gay Penguins to Be Separated at Toronto ZooToronto Zoo to separate two “gay” penguins so that they can breed. (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star)

The amorous connection between two inseparable male penguins will soon come to an end when the Toronto Zoo pairs them with females.

“The males will be put in with a specific female so they have the chance to get to know one another, and if they bond, that’s what we’re looking for,”   Bill Rapley, the zoo’s executive director of conservation and wildlife, told ABCNews.com.

Buddy, 21, and Pedro, 10, lived in a zoo in Toledo, Ohio, before traveling to Canada to become part of the Toronto Zoo’s first African penguin exhibit in 18 years.

Zookeepers quickly observed courtship and mating behaviors that are typically  exhibited only between males and females.

“When you put things in captivity, odd things happen,”  Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., told ABCNews.com. “The way penguins work is they do get paired for a long time. Basically, the only other penguin they care about is their mate, so it’s important for them to find somebody who’s compatible, and if you don’t have a normal upbringing then it’s difficult to say how ‘normal’ they can be.”

Buddy and Pedro, who were both raised in captivity, pair together every night, “bray” at one another, groom each other, and never seem to tire of standing alongside each other, the Toronto Star reported.

But because the penguins have “top-notch genes,” zookeepers want them to breed with females to help populate the species, which is endangered.

According to the Toronto Zoo’s website, the African penguin population initially declined because their eggs had been overharvested, and many of their habitats had been disturbed. Today, oil pollution and a shrinking food supply exacerbated by commercial fishing are the major threats to their existence.

The zoo is now engaged in a species survival plan to help the species populate.

But just because Buddy and Pedro are placed with females doesn’t mean they will want to pair with them, which might pose a challenge to the zoo’s attempts at animal husbandry.

“They don’t necessarily do what you want them to do, and what can be kind of tricky is getting them to accept the mate you want them to have,” said McGowan.

Part of the reason penguins tend to be so picky about their mates, he said, is because rearing chicks is “one of the hardest working times of their lives,” McGowan said. “There’s an awful lot of feeding.

“You can imagine if you’re going to invest so much time and energy in a chick … you would be choosy [about your mate] in that situation,” he said. “And the penguins are relatively choosy.”

Buddy might have an easier time adapting than Pedro. Before Buddy arrived  at the Toronto Zoo, he paired with a female for “quite a few years,” and they had eggs together, Tom Mason, Toronto Zoo curator of birds, told ABCNews.com.  ”After she passed away, Buddy was put with Pedro at the other zoo [in Ohio] and now they’ve been put in here to specifically breed with females. We’re setting up colony of 12 – to maximize genetics and avoid inbreeding.”

But when the breeding season is over, all the birds will eventually return to the same enclosure, and “if Buddy and Pedro want to be together … they will be back together, ” said Mason.

A Few Facts About African Penguins

  • Pairs mate for life
  • They live about 15 to 20 years
  • Both males and females incubate eggs
  • The population has dropped from millions to less than 60,000 since the 1800s

Wolves Fall Prey to Canada’s Rapacious Tar Sands Business September 18, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Canada, Energy, Environment.
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Published on Saturday, September 17, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

On the pretext of protecting caribou, wolves are threatened with a cull. But the real ‘conservation’ is of oil industry profits

  by  Paul Paquet

Wolves are routinely, baselessly and contemptuously blamed for the demise of everything from marmots to mountain caribou in western Canada. Given that attitude, we at Raincoast Conservation Foundation are appalled, though not surprised, by Canada’s proposed strategy to “recover” dwindling populations of boreal forest caribou in northern Alberta’s tar sands territory. Essentially, the plan favours the destruction of wolves over any consequential protection, enhancement or expansion of caribou habitat.

Clearly, the caribou recovery strategy is not based on ecological principles or available science. Rather, it represents an ideology on the part of advocates for industrial exploitation of our environment, which subsumes all other principles to economic growth, always at the expense of ecological integrity. Owing to the breadth of the human niche, which continues to expand via technological progress, the human economy grows at the competitive exclusion of nonhuman species in the aggregate. The real cost of Alberta’s tar sands development, which includes the potential transport of oil by Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines is being borne by wolves, caribou and other wild species.

 

Consistent with Canada’s now well-deserved reputation as an environmental laggard, the caribou recovery strategy evolved over several years and many politicised iterations, carefully massaged by government pen pushers and elected officials who did their very best to ignore and obscure the advice of consulting biologists and ecologists. So, the government should quit implying that the consultation approach provides a scientifically credible basis for decisions. Apparently, scientists can lead federal Environment Minister Peter Kent to information, but they cannot make him think.

Egged on by a rapacious oil industry, the federal government has chosen to scapegoat wolves for the decline of boreal caribou in a morally and scientifically bankrupt attempt to protect Canada’s industrial sacred cow: the tar sands. Yet, the ultimate reason why the caribou are on the way out is because multiple human disturbances – most pressingly, the tar sands development – have altered their habitat into a landscape that can no longer provide the food, cover and security they need.

The relentless destruction of boreal forest wilderness via tar sands development has conspired to deprive caribou of their life requisites while exposing them to levels of predation they did not evolve with and are incapable of adapting to. Consequently, caribou are on a long-term slide to extinction; not because of what wolves and other predators are doing but because of what humans have already done.

Controlling wolves by killing them or by the use of non-lethal sterilisation techniques is biologically unsound as a long-term method for reducing wolf populations and protecting hoofed animals (ungulates) from predation. Lethal control has a well documented failed record of success as a means of depressing numbers of wolves over time. Killing wolves indiscriminately at levels sufficient to suppress populations disrupts pack social structure and upsets the stability of established territories, allowing more wolves to breed while promoting the immigration of wolves from nearby populations.

At the broadest level, the caribou strategy favours human selfishness at the expense of other species. Implicit is the idea that commercial enterprise is being purchased by the subversion of the natural world, with one set of ethical principles being applied to humans and another to the rest of nature. The strategy panders to the ecologically destructive wants of society by sacrificing the most basic needs of caribou. In doing so, it blatantly contradicts the lesson Aldo Leopold taught us so well: the basis of sound conservation is not merely pragmatic it; is also ethical.

Simply, the caribou strategy is not commensurate with the threats to the species’ survival. What is desperately needed is a caribou strategy designed to solve the problem faster than it is being created. Protecting limited habitat for caribou while killing thousands of wolves as the exploitation of the tar sands continues to expand will not accomplish this goal. Against scientific counsel otherwise, though, politicians have decided that industrial activities have primacy over the conservation needs of endangered caribou (and frankly, all things living).

Tar sands cheerleaders try hard to convince Canadians that we can become an “energy superpower” while maintaining our country’s environment. They are, of course, wrong. Thousands of wolves will be just some of the causalities along the way. Minister Kent and his successors will find more opportunity to feign empathy as Canadians also bid farewell to populations of birds, amphibians and other mammals, including caribou, that will be lost as collateral damage from tar sands development. How much of our country’s irreplaceable natural legacy will Canadians allow to be sacrificed at the altar of oil industry greed?

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Paul Paquet

Paul Paquet is senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation. An international consultant and lecturer, with numerous university affiliations, he is an internationally recognised authority on mammalian carnivores, especially wolves.

Humanity Even for Nonhumans April 16, 2009

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Published: April 8, 2009
New York Times 

One of the historical election landmarks last year had nothing to do with race or the presidency. Rather, it had to do with pigs and chickens — and with overarching ideas about the limits of human dominion over other species.

 

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

I’m referring to the stunning passage in California, by nearly a 2-to-1 majority, of an animal rights ballot initiative that will ban factory farms from keeping calves, pregnant hogs or egg-laying hens in tiny pens or cages in which they can’t stretch out or turn around. It was an element of a broad push in Europe and America alike to grant increasing legal protections to animals.

Spain is moving to grant basic legal rights to apes. In the United States, law schools are offering courses on animal rights, fast-food restaurants including Burger King are working with animal rights groups to ease the plight of hogs and chickens in factory farms and the Humane Society of the United States is preparing to push new legislation to extend the California protections to other states.

At one level, this movement on behalf of oppressed farm animals is emotional, driven by sympathy at photos of forlorn pigs or veal calves kept in tiny pens. Yet the movement is also the product of a deep intellectual ferment pioneered by the Princeton scholar Peter Singer.

Professor Singer wrote a landmark article in 1973 for The New York Review of Books and later expanded it into a 1975 book, “Animal Liberation.” That book helped yank academic philosophy back from a dreary foray into linguistics and pushed it to confront such fascinating questions of applied ethics as: What are our moral obligations to pigs?

John Maynard Keynes wrote that ideas, “both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else.” This idea popularized by Professor Singer — that we have ethical obligations that transcend our species — is one whose time appears to have come.

“There’s some growth in numbers of vegetarians, but the bigger thing is a broad acceptance of the idea that animals count,” Mr. Singer reflected the other day.

What we’re seeing now is an interesting moral moment: a grass-roots effort by members of one species to promote the welfare of others. Legislation is playing a role, with Europe scheduled to phase out bare wire cages for egg production by 2012, but consumer consciences are paramount. It’s because of consumers that companies like Burger King and Hardee’s are beginning to buy pork and eggs from producers that give space to their animals.

For most of history, all of this would have been unimaginable even to people of the most refined ethical sensibility (granted, for many centuries those refined ethicists were also untroubled by slavery). A distinguished philosopher, Thomas Taylor, reacted to Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 call for “the rights of woman” by writing a mocking call for “the rights of brutes.” To him, it seemed as absurd that women should have rights as that animals should have rights.

One of the few exceptions was Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher who 200 years ago also advocated for women’s rights, gay rights and prison reform. He responded to Kant’s lack of interest in animals by saying: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”

In recent years, the issue has entered the mainstream, but even for those who accept that we should try to reduce the suffering of animals, the question remains where to draw lines. I eagerly pushed Mr. Singer to find his boundaries. “Do you have any compunctions about swatting a cockroach?” I asked him.

“Not much,” he replied, citing reasons to doubt that insects are capable of much suffering. Mr. Singer is somewhat unsure about shellfish, although he mostly gives them the benefit of the doubt and tends to avoid eating them.

Free-range eggs don’t seem offensive to him, but there is the awkwardness that even wholesome egg-laying operations depend on the slaughtering of males, since a male chick is executed for every female allowed to survive and lay eggs.

I asked Mr. Singer how he would weigh human lives against animal lives, and he said that he wouldn’t favor executing a human to save any number of animals. But he added that he would be troubled by the idea of keeping one human alive by torturing 10,000 hogs to death.

These are vexing questions, and different people will answer them differently. For my part, I eat meat, but I would prefer that this practice not inflict gratuitous suffering.

Yet however we may answer these questions, there is one profound difference from past centuries: animal rights are now firmly on the mainstream ethical agenda.

I invite you to visit my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

Oh, Canada: Stop the shameful seal slaughter April 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Canada.
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Alisa Mullins

 

www.opednews.com, April 13, 2009

 

If anyone wonders why animal rights groups speak out against Canada’s violent commercial seal slaughter year after year, I invite you to visit PETA’s blog, The PETA Files. There you’ll see a disturbing photo of a baby seal who was beaten and skinned for her fur. The seal’s skull has been smashed in, and the ice is red with her blood.

 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the seal slaughter—and in the next few weeks, tens of thousands of seals just like the one in the photograph will meet the same gruesome fate.

 If you’ve been following the animal rights movement since the 1970s, you no doubt remember the early days of the massive worldwide campaign to end Canada’s despicable slaughter of harp seals. Who can forget those heartbreaking ads showing fluffy white baby seals staring at the camera with their enormous eyes?

Public outcry forced Canada to ban the killing of “whitecoats” in 1987, and the seal slaughter essentially collapsed. But in 1996, all that changed when the Canadian government began subsidizing the massacre in an effort to rebuild it. It has since grown almost every year and is now the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world. This year alone, hunters will be allowed to kill more than 338,000 seals.

 

Canadian officials should have let the seal slaughter die a natural death.

 

While hunters are no longer allowed to kill “whitecoats,” they can club and shoot baby seals as soon as the animals begin to molt their white natal fur—about 12 days after they’re born. Yes, seals can legally be killed before they are even 2 weeks old—before they have eaten their first solid meal or taken their first swim.

 

The difference between bashing in the head of a 12-day-old seal and bashing in the head of a 13-day-old seal is lost on most people.

 

Not surprisingly, opposition to the seal slaughter is once again growing. In the U.S., the sale of seal fur has been banned since 1972. Belgium and the Netherlands have passed laws banning the importation of seal fur, and the European Union is considering similar legislation. In early March, a European Parliament committee voted in favor of a bill that would ban the importation of all seal products (with an exception made for Canada’s Inuit hunters). The full parliament is expected to vote on the bill as early as April.

 

Canada isn’t taking this lying down, of course. In an effort to make the slaughter seem more palatable, they’ve implemented new “humane standards,” including a requirement that sealers wait 60 seconds before skinning seals in order to “ensure” that they are dead. I’m sorry, but bludgeoning defenseless animals, impaling them on boat hooks, dragging them across the ice and ripping off their skins after a 60-second pulse check—assuming anyone is actually watching—does not fit any reasonable definition of “humane.” And the new regulations don’t require a speck of oversight.

 

With the approach of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the eyes of the world will soon be turning toward Canada. PETA will be working to make sure that some of that focus shifts from Canada’s “games” to Canada’s shame. Killing sentient animals for something as selfish as fur can never be justified.

 

But the very least that we can do is end the sickening spectacle of the seal slaughter once and for all. It should have been banned long ago.

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