CANADA REVIVES SEAL MASSACRE: Sex organs sold to aphrodisiac trade

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1995:

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland––
Deflecting Atlantic provincial wrath, the
Canadian government preceded the February
3 admission that northern cod have been
fished to commercial extinction by declaring a
bounty on seals and opening a “recreational”
seal hunt. The quota of 194,000––186,000
harp seals plus 8,000 hooded seals––is close
to the toll during the years before the offshore
clubbing of infant harp seals was halted under
international protest in 1985.
Sealers won’t have to leave shore to
club, shoot, and hack baby seals and their
mothers this year. For the first time since
1982, there is no ice in the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, forcing harp seals and hooded
seals ashore to whelp.

“It’s going to be bloody,” promised
Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society. “I was there the last
time this happened. Every Tom, Dick, and
Harry from the villages was down there trying
to club seals and not doing it right and ending
up skinning them alive. It’ll be worse this
year because they’re angry. Atlantic Canada
is now locked into a permanent poverty cycle.
They’ve just been told they’ll be poor for the
rest of their lives: those cod stocks aren’t
coming back in their lifetimes.”
Already reports have been received
of seals being “shot and dynamited in Atlantic
Canada by vigilantes,” said Anne Doncaster
of the International Wildlife Coalition. On
Prince Edward Island, IWC correspondent
Pat Gray said a live seal had been found on
the beach with her flippers cut off. Similar
incidents were reported last year.
“The Department of Fisheries and
Oceans is apparently terrified there will be
another uncontrolled slaughter, and are try-
ing to prepare for the worst,” Doncaster said.
Video from the 1982 landsman’s
hunt, as shoreline sealing is called, was key
in persuading the European Community to
ban the import of sealskins three years later.
Eating genitals
But the sealers don’t need the
European market now. The Asian aphrodisi-
ac trade swallows all the seal genitals Canada
can provide––literally, as they’re made into
cocktails and potions sold at the notorious
child-brothels of so-called “sex-port” centers
catering to the beliefs, strong in Asia, that
sex with very young partners can restore
youth; that sex with children avoids AIDS;
and that men of enhanced virility sire sons.
The United Nations Children’s Fund reported
on December 15 that as many as half a mil-
lion children a year are exploited in sex-ports
by growing numbers of pedophiles who fly in
from abroad. Thailand and the Philippines
have an estimated 100,000 child-prostitutes
apiece. At least eight other Southeast Asian
nations are also deeply involved.
Beyond the link to commercialized
pedophilia, points out Doncaster, “These are
the same markets that are responsible for the
illegal traffic in critically endangered tigers
and rhinos.”
Tacitly acknowledging at least part
of the linkage, the Taiwan Council of
Agriculture on January 29 urged citizens to
refrain from consuming products made from
endangered wildlife on trips abroad during
the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays,
which began on January 31. Seal genitals
might be acceptable; tiger genitals, not.
Taiwan is trying to overcome an image as
hub of the global traffic in products made
from endangered species, to escape limited
U.S. trade sanctions imposed in August 1994.
The sanctions are expected to cost Taiwan
about $25 million annually in export income.
Before Canada discovered the geni-
tal trade, the landman’s sealing kill averaged
circa 25,000. Last year, however, Terra
Nova Fisheries Co. of St. John’s contracted to
supply 50,000 seal carcasses to Shanghai
Fisheries, of China––whereupon Canada
boosted the sealing quota to 57,000. This
year unofficial reports claim Asian buyers
want 180,000 seal carcasses.
The whole carcasses are sold and
used, which enables the Canadian govern-
ment to deny that the seals are being killed
just for genitals. But the genitals alone fetch
up to $130 per set on the current retail mar-
ket, while the pelt, meat, and oil of a seal
go for about $20. Among the primary mar-
kets for the seal meat are mink and fox farms.
Atlantic Canadians buy about 6,000 frozen
“flipper pies” per year, but otherwise very
little seal meat goes to human consumption.
Political stakes
The money to be had from selling
seal carcasses is still small change compared
to the former worth of the Atlantic Canada
fishery, but the seal hunt has political mean-
ing for the whole of Canada. Traditionally
each of the 10 provinces is represented by at
least one cabinet minister, picked from
among the elected Members of Parliament.
Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova
Scotia, and Prince Edward Island among
them elect only a handful of Members
because of their small populations, but those
Members accordingly hold disproportionate
influence. The Atlantic influence has been
heightened for the past 30 years by the con-
stant threat that Quebec, the fifth sealing
province, might secede––which would iso-
late the Atlantic provinces from the rest of
Canada, but meanwhile gives them the bal-
ance of power in a perennial three-way strug-
gle among Quebec, industrialized Ontario,
and the largely agrarian west. For 28 of the
past 30 years a prime minister from Quebec
has held power and kept Quebec in confeder-
ation through maintaining an alliance with
Atlantic Canada. The names have changed,
from Pierre Trudeau to Brian Mulroney to
Jean Cretien, and the ruling parties have
been alternately Liberal and Progressive-
Conservative, but for pro-confederation
Quebeckers, the key to placating the sepa-
ratists has been getting special concessions
for French-speaking Quebecois from Ottawa;
the key to that has been keeping Atlantic
Canadian support; and the key to keeping
Atlantic Canadian support has been telling
Atlantic Canadians what they want to hear.
One government after another preferred to
absorb the force of global opinion against
seal-clubbing, rather than risk losing Atlantic
Canadian votes and perhaps the nation by
stopping it. Only when the EU cut off the
market for pelts and made it possible for
Canadian leaders to throw off the blame did
any dare act against it.
With the separatist Parti Quebecois
back in power in Quebec since last year, the
game is on again. Soon after Pariseau took
office, leaders of the Quebec-dominated
Liberal party began calling for a revived and
expanded seal hunt.
Taking notice of the Terra Nova
contract and a resolution in favor of sealing
by the Liberal party convention last May, the
International Fund for Animal Welfare made
banner headlines across Canada with a two-
page ad in the Toronto Globe & Mail and a
press conference in Charlottetown, Prince
Edward Island, at which executive director
Richard Moore gave explicit details of the
role of seal genitals in the aphrodisiac market.
But most marine mammal protection activists
were preoccupied with the simultaneous
struggles to renew the Marine Mammal
Protection Act, then before Congress; win
creation of the Southern Oceans Whale
Sanctuary, then before the International
Whaling Commission; and forestall a
Japanese and Norwegian bid to lift the global
moratorium on commercial whaling, also
before the IWC.
Fisheries minister Brian Tobin
meanwhile made soothing statements. As
late as July 7, the Ottawa C i t i z e n r e p o r t e d ,
“Tobin said that Canada will not consider a
return to seal culling on its east coast, despite
fishermen’s claims that the seals threaten
Newfoundland’s endangered northern cod.
Evidence of the impact of the seals in the
destruction of cod was not clear, he said.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that man has
been a far greater predator.'”
Cod crash
The northern cod fishery yielded
3.1 million metric tons of fish in 1970, but
had declined by two-thirds when Canada
finally began conservation measures in 1988.
Even then, the cutbacks were half-hearted
until 1992, when the catch fell to just
400,000 metric tons. Former Progressive-
Conservative fisheries minister John Crosbie
was forced to halt all cod fishing for at least
three years, putting from 30,000 to 35,000
people out of work and helping insure the PC
defeat in the 1994 general election. By then
it was too late. Five straight years of abnor-
mally cold water inhibited spawning. The
cod stock is now estimated at only 2,700 met-
ric tons, according to Canadian Department
of Fisheries deputy minister for science Scott
Parsons, who adds it will need at least 15
years to recover.
Even in announcing the expanded
seal hunt, including the bounty of 20ç per
pound on seals killed, which Quebec and the
Atlantic provinces are expected to match,
Tobin and Canadian Fisheries Resource
Conservation Council scientists admitted a
lack of scientific evidence that seals have hurt
the cod fishery. Instead, they deferred to the
“perceptions” and “common sense” of the
fishing industry.
The expanded seal hunt follows the
recommendation of a study group on the sta-
tus of the cod fishery, appointed by Tobin,
which consisted of nine representatives of the
fishing industry, two oceanographers, a
chemist, a professor of commerce, and a
professor of psychology. They reported that
the crisis was caused by a combination of for-
eign overfishing with Canadian management
practices that “are contrary to the conserva-
tion process.” They conceded that, “the
desired level of scientific evidence is not
available” to indict seals––but strongly urged
killing seals anyway, simply because, “an
imbalance is perceived between the amount
of fish eaten by seals and the amount that
may be taken by fishermen.
Damage control proceded immedi-
ately. Effective February 9, Cretien appoint-
ed former fisheries minister Romeo Leblanc,
longtime lead defender of the seal hunt under
Trudeau, to serve as Governor-General of
Canada––the official Canadian emissary to
the British Commonwealth, from which
direction much of the pressure against
renewed sealing is expected.
A February 21 “forum on seal man-
agement” in St. John’s is to present an eco-
nomic and scientific rationale for the killing,
in apparent hopes of forstalling opposition
from the general public. The bloodbath is
expected to follow immediately thereafter.
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