What you choose to eat for dinner tonight in La Jolla, or Sarasota or Scottsdale could help bring an end to the greatest slaughter of North American wildlife since the American bison was all but wiped from the face of the Earth more than a century ago.
It’s a curious fact, and a compelling one. Indeed, what everyone in the United States chooses to eat for dinner tonight amounts to the casting of a vote: Are we going to condone this slaughter, or are we going to take action to bring it to an end?
To step back, most school children know the tragic story of the bison. In the mid-19th Century vast herds stretched to the horizon, a seemingly endless bounty of nature. Then the hunters went to work. They systematically butchered these animals for their hides. By the late 1880s, the Great Plains had been soaked in blood and only a few hundred of the beleaguered creatures remained.
Most believe that we now live in more enlightened times – an era when majestic mammals are not systematically and brutally brought down by the hundreds of thousands for their hides.
Regrettably, these youngsters are wrong. Such a slaughter occurs each icy spring in the waters off of Eastern Canada – when weeks-old harp seals are clubbed, shot and gaffed to death for their skins. Never mind that global warming threatens the habitats of all arctic creatures including these seals – the hunt goes on, turning the ice floes of the North Atlantic into bloody killing fields.
Which brings us back to dinner here: The Humane Society of the United States is urging residents in all 50 states – and restaurants, grocers and businesses too – to stop buying Canadian seafood until this gory slaughter is ended.
You see, the slaughter of seals is an off-season means for Canada’s fishermen to earn supplemental income. They get about 5 percent or so of their income from selling seal pelts to European and Asian furriers. The remainder of their income is from fishing.
Here in the U.S., fur from Canada’s seals cannot be sold. But Canada’s fish can. Therefore, thoughtful chefs, grocers and consumers are joining up by the thousands to support a boycott of the Canadian seafood—driving home the message that the slaughter of seals must stop, and now. You can find which markets and grocers in your neighborhood have signed on to the boycott by visiting www.humanesociety.org/protectseals. By patronizing them, you are taking action to save helpless seals.
Already this boycott has cost Canadians too much in export revenue and in international prestige, far too much. Canadians, after all, regard themselves as progressive and enlightened citizens of the world, and when polled 70 percent oppose the seal slaughter. So the “hunt” should have ended long ago. Except that politics has a bloody hand in the matter.
Once again, we can draw an uncomfortable parallel with the demise of the bison. In the late 1800s, the U.S. government sanctioned the killing of bison herds to deprive Native Americans of food, weakening them so they could be forced onto reservations. What a horrible idea.
Yet, in modern Canada, an equally grotesque policy keeps the slaughter going: The Canadian government manages and promotes the seal hunt for no good reason other than to show that it isn’t going to be pushed around by its big cousin in the South. That’s right, Canadians are suffering economic harm and their global image is being tarnished to make the point each year that Canada will stick up for its fishermen, no matter what.
Thus, fishermen hold the key. When the U.S. boycott of their seafood products cuts deep enough, they will call for an end to the hunt. Fishermen will soon learn that seals are worth far more alive than dead – a grandiose spectacle on which to build a thriving eco-tourism industry.
That’s why it’s urgent that you find out whether your local grocer has signed on to the boycott. If not, urge the store manager to join up, please. Do the same when you dine at a restaurant. Spread the word. It’s a very small thing for us to shop with a soft heart and dine with conscience. For the seal pups that will be born on the ice this spring, it’s life and death.
In The Blog
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