Gail Shea says Paul McCartney misleading public on seal hunt

The Canadian Press
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FILE PHOTO: Paul McCartney and his then wife Heather pose with a seal pup on the ice floes off Iles de la Madeleine in the Gulf of St.Lawrence, Thursday March 2, 2006, as part of a high-profile protest against Canada's annual seal hunt. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea speaks out Tuesday against "misleading attacks on the hunt from radical animal rights activists"

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Former Beatles frontman Paul McCartney is calling again for an end to Canada's East Coast commercial seal hunt, roiling supporters who say it's a humane source of cash for struggling outports.

McCartney appeals for a stop to what he calls a “senseless slaughter” in a statement released Tuesday by Humane Society International. The group plans to document the hunt on film as it has for years.

“Their videos of the bloody seal slaughter provide the only vital evidence to demonstrate year after year that these seals are dying a horrible death for their fur,” McCartney said.

Anti-sealing campaigns have helped inspire bans on seal product imports in the European Union, the United States, Mexico and other countries.

The hunt opened Sunday on the Front off northeastern Newfoundland and southern Labrador, as well as in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The federal government has defended the commercial seal hunt as humane and sustainable.

“We continue to tell the truth about sealing, and the effects of seal populations on our marine ecosystems, to combat misleading attacks on the hunt from radical animal rights activists,” Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said Tuesday in a statement.

“We've challenged the EU's unfair ban on Canadian seal products, and are working with industry and our international partners to develop new products and open new markets,” she said.

Shea was not available for an interview.

The hunt has dwindled in recent years with fewer than 55,000 harp seals landed last year compared to a federal quota of about 400,000. Hunters were urged to ensure they have a buyer before heading out.

Eldred Woodford, president of the Canadian Sealers Association, said he won't be going to the ice for the first time in 20 years. That's because just one buyer so far has indicated demand for 30,000 harp seal pelts, he said from Twillingate, about six hours north of St. John's.

“It's a very limited hunt this year.”

The federal government set the allowable catch at 400,000 harp seals, 60,000 grey seals and 8,000 hooded seals.

Woodford stressed that at about $35 each for the highest quality pelts last year, sealing provided a crucial boost.

“It's very important to smaller rural communities, coastal communities, which need every little bit of income they can get.”

The hunt is also increasingly needed as a check on growing seal populations that feast on fragile fish stocks, Woodford said.

Jeffrey Hutchings, a biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said in a recent interview that harp seal numbers have soared in the last 20 years.

“There is an imbalance, if you will, between predator and prey and it would not be surprising if the seals were having some impact on the recovery of cod. But the data really are not very clear in that regard.”

McCartney made international headlines in 2006 when he staged a photo-op on the ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, beseeching Canada to halt the centuries-old hunt.

Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami representing about 55,000 Canadian Inuit, said in a statement that McCartney should stick to what he knows.

“He is perpetuating myths, disregarding science and traditions, and turning a blind eye to the needs of working people to earn a living and feed their families.”

Organizations: European Union, Humane Society International, Canadian Sealers Association Dalhousie University

Geographic location: ST. JOHN'S, Canada, East Coast United States Mexico Northeastern Newfoundland Southern Labrador Twillingate Halifax

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Recent comments

  • Ty Savoy
    April 25, 2015 - 12:29

    In a related topic... please sign and share this new Petition... to stop a Mink Fur Farm expansion - - Eagle Ridge Mink Ranch in Northern Arm, Newfoundland. They want to go from 300 to 3000 mink suffering in the confinement of a tiny cage for life. Each one then killed for their skin and fur. Totally unnecessary suffering. Petitioning Minister of Environment and Conservation, Gov't of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Mr. Dan Crummell Reject proposal to expand mink farm from 300 to 3000 animals

  • kathleen
    April 24, 2015 - 20:15

    Who are the people that are wearing seal skin coats. Maybe, we should focus on educating the them.

    • Ty Savoy
      April 25, 2015 - 12:32

      Kathleen there is a great anti fur awareness campaign underway now. The Fur Bearer Defenders put this together: Check this out too, a brilliant animated short film: Fur Coat

  • Lisanne Donohue
    April 22, 2015 - 11:12

    I get SO sick of the argument that asks "do you eat meat"? I am not justifying eating meat by any means, but most of the world's population eats meat in one way or another, and not just cows, chickens and pigs. But most of the world's population does NOT wear seal fur or use seal products in their everyday life. We can't stop all animal abuse or killing, just like we can't stop all human abuse or killing. So does that mean we should just let things continue the way they have for hundreds of years?? Then slavery would still be legal.

  • mattie goodwin
    April 16, 2015 - 16:01

    paul mccartney is absolutley right! it's time to end this cruel seal slaughter! mattie goodwin

    • Ed Sullivan
      April 17, 2015 - 13:30

      If you listen real close, you can hear tomatoes scream in pain when they're being picked from the vine. Let's end the cruel slaughter of vegetables!

  • Walter Crump
    April 16, 2015 - 14:09

    Paul McCartney is not being radical for opposing this vile barbarism. Shea is being radical (as well as disgustingly horrible) for supporting it. Shea and the hunt's supporters have conveniently compartimentalized or buried in their minds the actual horrors of Canada's seal hunt and have instead chosen to focus on the simplistic justifications for it. Shea does so because it is the easy way out and she lacks the courage to demonstrate true leadership or compassion. Shea's support of this odious hunt is an example of how truly horrid humans can be to other species. It is also an example of pandering to special interests and being bought by them. This senseless grisly slaughter is heartbreaking, painful and an example of psychotic human behavior. Shea and the Canadian Government should be listening to the vast majority of Canadians and stop this gruesome slaughter

  • Don
    April 16, 2015 - 12:58

    I agree that McCartney should stick to issues he is qualified to assess. Too many celebrities use their millions to garner attention for themselves by addressing issues they know nothing about.

  • Jak Crow
    April 15, 2015 - 21:05

    I love how these guys always try to blame "the seals" for the state of their fisheries. "It's not us humans that, for years, have overfished the oceans to the point of collapsing the food chain. It's those damn seals!".

  • Ray
    April 15, 2015 - 20:36

    To Mike and Paul (McCartney), Please state to the media that you do not eat any animal, fish or poultry products before you call for a ban on the seal hunt. Do not eat it if it has a face or a mother. This would qualify you to call for a ban.

    • Ed Sullivan
      April 17, 2015 - 11:02

      He's an acknowledged vegetarian. That makes him eminently qualified in one subject.... music.

    • kathleen
      April 24, 2015 - 20:17

      Paul McCartney has been a vegetarian for years.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    April 15, 2015 - 13:44

    Finally, something I can agree with Gail Shea about.

  • Anthony
    April 15, 2015 - 11:35

    I seen on the news the other day a report on the last male northern white rhino being guarded 24 hours a day. Perhaps Paul should use his celebrity status and unlimited cash to help with that cause rather than screw around with a bunch of over populated unwanted seals. Oh wait, the rhino is beastly looking and a seal is cute right.... Easy solution to the overpopulation of seals is to open a hunting season through a tag system within the Maritimes, I'm sure hunters and fishermen would have a field day hunting some big game especially here on the Island. As for what to do with the carcasses, make fish or fox meal with them. Seals are a heavily populated nuisance period.

  • Adam
    April 15, 2015 - 10:43

    The seals are overpopulated, and eating up valuable catches that the economy here relies upon. I agree, the way they kill them is not the prettiest, but it is quick and dirty, and the animals do not suffer for long. Fishermen are bound to start getting frustrated with the seals and start killing the seals themselves, I suspect some already have.

    • Jak Crow
      April 15, 2015 - 21:10

      How about the fishing industry back the hell off and let fish populations recover for once instead of trying to blame "the seals!"?

  • Againstanimalabuse
    April 15, 2015 - 10:19

    The fact that this cruel and inhumane hunt still goes on still disturbs me,. Eighty percent of Canadians are against it and we look like barbaric people to othet countries for still having a seal hunt .It is justified some how because it gives jobs? Well a drug dealer also has a job and is making money so does that make it right?

    • also against animal abuse
      April 15, 2015 - 17:05

      I too am also against animal abuse, but seals are killed quickly and humanely. The hunt is monitored closely by DFO. Check out what goes on in dairy, pork, beef and chicken/eggs industrial farming. At least the seal had a good life beforehand.

    • Diana
      April 16, 2015 - 17:18

      "At least the seal had a good life beforehand." FYI, these seal pups were just born in February. They are babies who have not been given a chance to have a good life, or any life, for that matter.

  • Quiet Observer
    April 15, 2015 - 09:59

    So, Mike, you must be a vegetarian and wear nothing made of leather, not play with footballs, soccer balls, etc? People kill cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, lobsters, crabs, oysters, clams, cod, hake, halibut, sole, trout, salmon, ducks, geese, deer, moose, and the list goes on and on. Opposing the seal hunt is a bigger business than the seal hunt. These organizations raise and spend millions of dollars for this, more than the actual seal hunt is worth - do the math - 30,000 pelts at $35 each = $1,050,000. These organizations raise 10s of millions for the anti-sealing activities every year. Think about it.

  • Mike
    April 15, 2015 - 07:22

    So let me boil this down - these Canadians want to kill these seals. Paul McCartney wants to stop it on the basis that killing them is wrong. The Canadians say they are killing less, but still killing. Killing is wrong. "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and all of that jazz, doesn't say "Thou Shalt Not Kill, People". To be honest with you, I have a hard time seeing your point that Paul is somehow on the wrong side of the stick here.

    • homer
      April 15, 2015 - 10:28

      so by your theory, we should be going after all the people that 'kill' cows, chickens, pigs, fish, etc.... because 'killing is wrong'?! I assume you must be a vegetarian or a vegan? Let's all protest in front of restaurants, farms and whereever these 'victims' are served in order to stop this world-wide slaughter.

    • Ty Savoy
      April 25, 2015 - 12:40

      An entire city in India, Palatana, declared itself meat free this past year. After a group of 200 Monks went on a hunger strike. They're actually living by their words. Integrity. Ahimsa - non-violence. The equilivant to Christian 'Do Unto Others as you would have them do unto you' In India, The World's First Vegetarian City