For years, animal protection volunteers have faced off with people clubbing baby harp seals to death on the ice floes of Newfoundland. It looks like the baby seals may be winning.
In spite of the fact that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been trying to open up the Chinese market to baby seal fur, the world market overall continues to collapse. And China itself has been stalling over signing a fur agreement.
Russia used to be Canada’s largest buyer of seal items, but banned the import of harp seal pelts at the end of last year, and the European Union has had a ban in effect since 2010. It’s also banned in the United States. Elsewhere, baby seal fur prices have been falling. The commercial value of the seal catch dropped to $745,000 last year from $1.3-million in 2010.
This year, many seal hunters are just staying home. “We have no indication if anyone is buying,” Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, told CBC News.
But, like other “traditions”, clubbing baby seals to death is still part of the Newfoundland culture, and both major political parties support it. The hunt is still subsidized by the federal government, and when a member of parliament recently suggested that the days of the seal hunt might be coming to an end, he was booed from all sides.
Still, the opposition is growing. When Prime Minister Harper, a Conservative, backed the annual Canadian seal hunt this year by sporting furry seal ribbons on their lapels, opposition Senator Mac Harb issued a press release saying:
The Conservative government is holding yet another photo op instead of being upfront about the end of the commercial seal hunt.The government must tell sealers the truth. The market is dead.