WSPA board role of Danish wildlife researcher Bjarne Clausen raises questions
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2008:
World Society for the Protection of Animals board president
Dominique Bellemare is not the only WSPA board member whose history
of associations with prominent defenders of the Canadian fur and
sealing industries has caused ANIMAL PEOPLE to ask questions. Board
member Bjarne Clausen, a Danish biologist, spoke in 1981–the same
year that WSPA was founded–as part of the Northwest Territories
Department of Renewable Resources’ “Fish, Fur, & Game for the
Like Bellemare, Clausen appears to have no public record of
speaking or writing against the fur trade, either in Canada or
Greenland, a Danish protectorate where Clausen formerly did studies
of otters and other wild furbearing mammals.
The Northwest Territories are now called Nunavut. The “Fish,
Fur, & Game for the Future” program preceded an ongoing Canadian
government effort to encourage indigenous fishing, trapping and
hunting, and to use the involvement of indigenous people in trapping
and sealing as an image to counter European opposition.
Historically, indigenous people have accounted for less than
10% of Canadian fur trapping and sealing, but have several times
been able to persuade members of the European Parliament to retreat
from proposed bans of imports of products made from trapped fur and
Asked about his involvement with pro-fur and pro-sealing
organizations, Clausen responded through WSPA director general Peter
Davies, “I have been working with ‘the health of the fauna’ for [the
United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization] and the Danish
government from 1967 to 1996, and participated in hundred of
conferences, covering all aspects of management of the fauna
including hunting, and I still represent the Danish Animal Welfare
Association, in the Game Council giving advice to the Ministry of
Environment regarding adminstration of the laws concerning the
management of the fauna and hunting.
“In 1981,” Clausen continued, “there were 2 conferences in
Yellowknife and Banf where the Canadian government wanted to improve
the dialog between the hunters- trappers and the scientists and the
civil servants, and further to the politicians (Banf). I
participated giving a lecture in Yellowknife about ‘Marked and
subsistence hunting in Greenland.’ By the way it was five years
before I had any position within the national and international
animal welfare world.”
Asked ANIMAL PEOPLE, in view of Clausen’s advisory role to
the Danish government, “What is your personal position on whether
Greenland should be allowed to kill 10 humpback whales, as Denmark
requested of the International Whaling Commission in June 2008,
acting on behalf of Greenland?
“What is your personal position on whether Greenland should
sue Belgium for banning the import of seal pelts, as Greenland has
threatened to do?
“What is your personal position on the Danish government
sponsoring a task force for the past year to oppose European Union
efforts to ban seal pelt imports?
“Do you agree with this statement made in February 2007 by
the Danish Foreign Ministry: ‘Denmark and Greenland agree that
national bans of sealskin within the European Union are unjustified
and can have a harmful effect on this traditional trade in Greenland
and for the whole fur industry’?
“Do you believe that the fur industry should exist?”
Clausen did not respond to any of those questions.
Forwarded WSPA board secretary Peter Mason, on behalf of the
full WSPA board:
“Board members come to the WSPA Board from a variety of
backgrounds and experiences in animal protection. While serving as
WSPA Board members, however, they are judged not on their past
individual animal protection background, knowledge or experience,
but on their commitment to the governance duties of a WSPA Board
“In our experience, Mr Bellemare has been exemplary in the
exercise of his governance duties as a member of WSPA’s Board, and
his election to President reflects the group judgement of his peers
on the Board that he deserves to hold that position.
“Similarly, in our experience, Mr. Bjarne Clausen has been
exemplary in the exercise of his governance duties as a member of
WSPA’s Board. All WSPA Board members endorse the policies and
programmes of WSPA.”
But if all WSPA board members do fully and unreservedly
endorse the longstanding WSPA position that it is “morally
indefensible to subject animals to suffering and death for fur or
skin products,” why do they as individuals refuse to say so,
unequivocally and on the public record?