Archive | Seal hunting, a practice that has divided since the 1970s

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Archives | Seal hunting, a divisive practice since the 1970s

Following the recommendations of the Malouf Commission (1986), The Canadian government banned the hunting of seal pups in 1987. Téléjournal, January 4, 1988.

The seal hunt is a subject that polarizes opinions. In eastern Canada, seals have been hunted for several generations among the Madelinots, Newfoundlanders and Inuit. But since the 1970s, the practice has been criticized by several groups of opponents. Our archives bear witness to how the war of images, waged by animal groups and a few public figures, succeeded in undermining this industry.

On the east coast of Canada, there are six species of seals (bearded, grey, common, harp, hooded and ringed).

Commercial hunting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence focuses mainly on seals gray and harp seals.

The seal is hunted for its fur, fat and meat. For Newfoundlanders and Madelinots, hunting represents an economic bridge between two fishing seasons.

“Nobody likes to say, me I am on unemployment. The world prefers to say, I fish, I go hunting, I earn my living. »

— Denis Éloquin, seal hunter and fisherman, Le point 1995

During the 1950s and 1960s, seal hunts were commonplace, as their white coats were highly sought after by the European fashion industry. The whitecoat is what the baby seal is called.

In 1964, Radio-Canada broadcast the documentary Les grands phoques de la banquise by director and hunting and fishing columnist Serge Deyglun. The film, which denounces the hunt for seal pups, is also shown in Europe.

We see seal pups still alive lying in their blood on the ice floe. An image that strikes the imagination. Later, the hunter Gustave Poirier will claim to have been paid by the director to commit this gesture. But the damage was done and Canada's image would remain tarnished.

In the 1970s, during the hunting season, many activists traveled to Newfoundland and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, which provoked several confrontations.

Seal hunting is practiced with a club or a hakapik. The animal is struck in the skull and then bled onto the ice floe. The contrast of the blood against the whiteness of the snow makes this a particularly offensive image.

The United States banned the sale of seal products on its territory in 1972.

In 1977, the French actress Brigitte Bardot arrives in Canada to denounce the hunting of seal pups. His famous Canadians assassins will become the rallying cry of protest movements.

Report by Jean Jolivet on the seal hunt and the movements that contest this practice.

On March 4, 1979, Jean Jolivet presented a report on the program Hebdo Dimanche. It reports on the sometimes violent confrontations between activists who oppose the hunt and seal hunters.

Organizations such as WWF, IFAW and Greenpeace campaigned year after year to demand an end to the seal hunt.

In 1984, the Government of Canada implemented the Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada chaired by Justice Albert H . Malouf.

At its end, the Malouf Commission issues a few recommendations.

The Malouf report indicates that slaughter with a club or hakapik is the best method available to avoid unnecessary suffering to the animal. The Commission also recommends the abolition of whitecoat hunting.

“The clubbing of whitecoat seal pups is not not a cruel practice in itself, but due to public opinion it is unrealistic to contemplate the resumption of the commercial hunt of seal pups. »

—Albert H Malouf, 1986

Even though the whitecoat has not been hunted since 1987 and the animal has never been endangered, opposition groups do not hesitate to continue to use its angelic image to denounce the hunt.

On March 3, 2006 on Téléjournal, Denis-Martin Chabot presented a report on the passage of Paul McCartney and his wife Heather Mills on the ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. An excursion and media stunt organized by the Humane Society of the United States.

Report by Denis-Martin Chabot on the passage of Paul McCartney on the pack ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada Agent Phil Jenkins met with the McCartney couple and laments their lack of knowledge about the seal hunt.

“We were fighting against a lobby that is extremely powerful, which is that of the animalists. »

— Bernard Guimond, President Tamassu Seal Products

In 2009, the European Union decided to close its doors to seal products on its territory. This is a victory for opponents of the seal hunt. This represents 30% of the clientele that disappears for Canadian hunters.

Report by Daniel Thibeault on the European Union which is closing its doors to seal products on its territory. A victory for opponents of the seal hunt. The newscast is hosted by Christian Latreille.

On May 5, 2009, journalist Daniel Thibeault presents a report on Téléjournalon this decision which shocks Canadian parliamentarians.

“In Spain people are demonstrating naked with blood on them. This is bullfighting country. It takes quite a bit of imagination to denounce the seal hunt. »

— Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Québécois, 2009

The government then promised to take the decision to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“Canada will appeal to the WTO Appellate Body any decision that would maintain this unfair ban […] Canada maintains its position that the seal hunt is humane, sustainable and well regulated. Any opinion to the contrary is based on myths and is the result of misinformation. »

— Government of Canada press release, 2013

The last census of the harp seal population was carried out in 2017. There were 7.6 million individuals. for Eastern Canada, including nearly two million in the Gulf. This is five times more than in the 1970s.

As for the gray seal, “the herd was less than 20,000 head in the early 1960s. today there are 424,000 for all of eastern Canada. »

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