Cartoon keeps seal hunt in the spotlight

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2011:

TORONTO–Just when Atlantic Canadian sealers
imagined it might be safe to go back in the
water, because maybe no one was watching with
cameras this year, a cartoon seal walked into a
bar and attracted media notice from St. Johns,
Newfoundland, to Vancouver, British Columbia.
“PETA printed clever coasters and distributed
them in bars around Toronto,” explained
Treehugger blogger Lloyd Alter. Drawn by New
Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss, the coasters
showed a sad-eyed seal telling a bartender,
“Anything but a Canadian Club.”

Continued Alter, “On the back is a more graphic
photo of a seal hunter who has gone clubbing,
and a message sending drinkers to anti-sealing
Said PETA spokesperson Ashley Gonzalez,
“Following a few years of online campaigning,
which resulted in the Canadian government hiring
someone to monitor PETA’s social media
activities, PETA now aims to reach a broad cross
section of people in actual social hotspots.
Later this spring, PETA will be bringing the ad
campaign to bars and clubs nationwide with
postcards and posters placed above urinals.”
Added PETA senior vice president Dan
Mathews, “With this bar blitz, we’re reaching
people where they least expect it. We want the
happy-hour crowd to be just as outraged as the
online community over wasteful government
spending on the cruel seal industry.”
Picked up Simon Houpt of CTV, the
largest privately owned Canadian broadcasting
network, “Ten thousand copies of the cartoon
were distributed in 20 Toronto bars, with more
slated to roll out across the country, until
Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc. of Norfolk,
Virginia,” the owners of the Canadian Club
whiskey brand, located in the same city as PETA
headquarters, “insisted PETA put the campaign on
the rocks.”
Fumed Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc.
senior vice president and general counsel Kenton
Rose, “PETA’s malicious publication has caused
degradation of Canadian Club’s corporate image
and the advertisement has and will damage the
Canadian Club brand and trademark.
“For the record,” Rose added, “Jim Beam
and Canadian Club take no position on PETA’s
position with respect to the Canadian
government’s policy regarding the treatment of
seals; our interest is solely protection of our
important intellectual property rights.”
That reinvigorated media notice across
Canada, and around the world. The
government-controlled Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation rarely airs critical commentary about
the Atlantic Canada seal hunt, but remarks by
entertainer George Stroumboulop-oulos on the CBC
show George Stroumboul-opoulos Tonight sparked
intensive denunciation of the hunt on the program
web site.
More than 6.5 million web sites and
Facebook pages amplified notice of the Bliss
cartoon within less than three weeks.
PETA general counsel and senior
vice-president of corporate affairs Jeffrey Kerr
responded to Rose that the cartoon coasters meet
the legal test of fair use of trademarked and
copyrighted material, which in the U.S. includes
incidental use in the contexts of parody,
commentary, news reportage, and academic
“There are several factors to that test,”
Kerr explained. “The first is, quite clearly,
this is a joke. It’s a cartoon of a seal
ordering a drink at a bar. It’s obviously a play
on the words ‘Canadian club,’ which
unfortunately is the implement used to slaughter
the seals. It’s clearly not talking about the
“It was not a happy hour when PETA
received your letter,” Kerr continued, claiming
PETA’s “intentions were entirely top shelf,” and
adding that in view of the bloodshed soon to
follow in Atlantic Canada, “it’s hard not to
want a stiff drink.”
But Kerr told Rose that no further use
would be made of the Bliss cartoon, because
“it’s never our intention to anger somebody who’s
not an animal exploiter.”
“Unfortunately for PETA,” wrote Neil
Melliship of the Vancouver trademark law firm
Clark Wilson LLP, “fair use is a U.S. doctrine
that doesn’t apply in Canada in the context of
either copyright or trademarks.”
By then, however, Beam Global Spirits &
Wine Inc. was no longer commenting on the matter,
and may have just wanted the whole controversy to

The cost of sealing

Said PETA spokesperson Gonzalez, “World
leaders-including Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin,
and His Holiness the Dalai Lama-have spoken out
against the [seal] massacre, yet the government
of Prime Minister Stephen Harper still spends $7
million each year to prop up this dying event.”
Gonzalez’ estimate of the cost of the
Atlantic Canada seal hunt to Canadian taxpayers
came from a 2010 study by Guelph University
professor John Livernois. It was probably low.
“According to the Department of Fisheries
and Oceans’ own data,” said an April 6, 2011
press release from the International Fund for
Animal Welfare, “the landed value of the
commercial seal hunt was only $1.3 million in
2010, with exports valued at a mere $2.1
million. Yet taxpayers will spend an estimated
$10 million to challenge the European Union ban
on seal products at the World Trade Organization,
an estimated $1 million is spent each year on
attempts to monitor the commercial hunt, and
hundreds of thousands are spent annually to
develop seal products and promote them overseas.”
While backing the seal hunt, the Harper
government has proposed cuts of $31.9 million to
the budget of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities
Agency and $84.7 million to the Department of
Fisheries & Oceans, whose activities reputedly
create more jobs in Atlantic Canada than in all
the rest of the nation combined.
The Liberal Party held six of the seven
Newfoundland seats in the most recent Parliament,
and has always supported the seal hunt, but
Liberal Member of Parliament Hedy Fry, of
central Vancouver, on March 16, 2011 challenged
the longstanding party line of all three major
Canadian national parties in an e-mail headlined
“Re: Harp Seal Action Month in Nanaimo BC,”
addressed to an unidentified recipient.
“I agree that the commercial seal hunt is
unnecessary,” said Fry. “I also agree that it
is pointless to kill animals for pelts that are
used for luxury clothing when artificial products
can be used insteadŠThe food-based and
traditional seal hunt should be maintained for
Inuit, First Nations, and Atlantic Canadians,”
Fry declared. “However, it is time to take the
necessary steps to end the commercial seal hunt.
“I have written to the Minister of
Fisheries [Gail Shea], asking her to take
whatever measures [are] necessary to end the
current commercial seal hunt,” Fry said. “I am
also discussing this matter with my colleagues in
the Liberal caucus to build support for taking
steps to end the hunt.”
Wrote Vancouver Sun national affairs
columnist Barbara Yaffe, “My vote on this one
goes to Fry.”
But the Fry e-mail brought vehement
denunciation from leaders of all three national
parties, heading into a national election that
is expected to be held on May 2, 2011, after
the Stephen Harper government lost a “no
confidence” vote on March 25, 156-145.
The only Canadian party that has ever
formed a Parliamentary majority without
substantial support from Atlantic Canada was the
Progressive Conservative Party, under former
prime minister Brian Mulroney–who suspended the
seal hunt in 1984. The suspension was lifted in
1995, a year after Mulroney left office.
The Progressive Conservative Party merged
with Harper’s Reform Party in 2003 to form the
present Conservative Party. The last national
secretary of the Progressive Conservative Party
was Dominique Bellemare, a World Society for the
Protection of Animals board member since 1992,
and a former WSPA board president. A policy
adviser to the Canadian Ministry for External
Affairs in 1990-1991, Bellemare appears to have
never spoken on the record in opposition to
either the Atlantic Canada seal hunt or the fur
industry, and has said little on the record
about any animal issue. Bellemare has three
times run unsuccessfully for Parliament as a
Progressive Conservative and a Conservative in
the Beauharnois-Salaberry riding, south of
Montreal, but is not a candidate in 2011.
Polls indicate that the Conservatives
will win the most seats in the 2011 election,
after winning 143 seats in 2008, but opposition
parties won 160 seats in 2008 and could make
enough gains in 2011 to replace the Harper
government with a center/left coalition.

High quotas

Only 69,000 seals were killed during the
2010 Atlantic Canada seal hunt, as the 2009
European Union ban on importing seal pelts and
products took effect with the support of 27
nations. The average price paid for a seal pelt
has fallen from a high of $97 in 2006 to just $21
in April 2011. However, Canadian Fisheries
Minister Gail Shea on March 25, 2011–the same
day that the government she represents lost the
no confidence vote– approved record high quotas
of 400,000 harp seals, 60,000 gray seals, and
8,200 hooded seals. The Canadian Department of
Fisheries & Oceans contends that there are now
more than nine million seals in Atlantic Canadian
waters, despite two successive years of poor ice
conditions which have resulted in high pup
mortality even before the hunts have begun.
Only 1,200 seals were killed in the Gulf
of St. Lawrence phase of the seal hunt in 2011,
of a regional quota of 105,000, the DFO said.
The Newfoundland/Labrador Front phase of the seal
hunt started on April 11. Participation was
reportedly low.

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