Commercial Seal Hunt: « Threatened The Sealers File A Complaint

« We recognise that the essential principal guiding the animal rights movement is non-violence » (Gary L. Francione, Lawyer, Rights Professor & Activist)

The media has focused a lot, these last few days on a judicial pursuit that the sealers want to make against certain people who oppose the commercial seal hunt. For Mr. Leonce Arseneau, their public speaker cited in the Journal de Montreal & of Quebec, those who oppose  are all « vegan extremist activists« , using violence to achieve their goals.

It’s curious to note that this recent effort is happening just before their hunting season starts. Could their judicial pursuit be a strategy to attract sympathy from the public and certain medias?

A threatening letter dated from 2008 was largely circulated on the internet by the hunters. We can ask ourselves then, if the hunters felt so threatened, let so much time pass before fileing a complaint? It’s important to note that several e-mails aimed at the hunters come from France and that they do not have anything to do with activists from Quebec. One would also have to verify the authenticity of those e-mails to make shure that they indeed come from those who oppose the hunt and not from those who are pro-hunt provocaters passing themselves off as activists.

The multitude of those who oppose the commercial seal hunt, do so in comeplete legality and non-violence. There are sometimes very intense and emotional debates, words said in the heat of the moment between those who oppose the hunt and the hunters in the discussion forums, words that might not always be with in line with either sides ways of thinking. But this threatening letter is not indicative of Quebec activism and the person who wrote that letter should excuse themselves publicly because it effects all the activists. It is’nt with those kinds of words that the debates on thoughts and opinions will advance. But is there really debates going on in Canada about the commercial seal hunt, in the media or elsewhere? Is the chance given to those who oppose it to speak their minds and give their opinions, or do we not see rather chances to intimidate and censor them to install a climate of fear in order to silence them?

False Identities

According to Mr Arseneau, the majority of people who send the « threatening messages » hide behind false identities, in private emails, in public forums or on Facebook. Certain opposers have had to hide their real names because they were recieving private e-mails containing threats of harm. Personal addresses and telephone numbers circulated on the sealers Facebook group called « Chasse aux phoques : Stop aux mensonges« , illegal actions in a public space that could be seen by all. Is this hate towards those who oppose the hunt representative of all of the inhabitants of the Magdelen Islands? I’m certain it is’nt.

The Image Of The Hunters

In his declarations to le Journal de Montreal and Quebec, Mr Arseneau also accuses the « extremist vegan activists« , of going onto European sites to « tarnish the sealers image« . He forgets to mention, there again, that the sealers image has been continually tarnished over the last 40 years, long before the birth of PETA or any other animal rights organization. For my part, I first seen images of the baby seal slaughter in 1976 on Radio-Canada, astounding scenes of violence where mother seals had just given birth. It’s thanks to the work on sensibilisation by Brigitte Bardot and other activists for the animal cause that the killings of baby seals stopped in 1987. If it was’nt for their intervention, the sealers would have continued bashing in the skulls of new born seals, without any regards to animal welfare or ethics. (1)

Demonize The Vegetarians/Vegans

About 2 years ago I started a series of articles on the commercial seal hunt, following the comments made in the media by Celine Hervieux-Payette in which she accused those opposed to this hunt, of « carrot eaters » or « extremists payed by Vegetarian lobby groups. » In her ultimate attempt to save the commercial seal hunt from a ban by the European Union, in October 2007, she wrote to the French president Mr Sarkozy to complain about those who « discredit the image of Canada, the animalists, that is to say the fundamentalists of the animal cause… I believe that the objectif of these groups who claim to defend animals is not to defend animals but to impose their moral vision of society that passes ineluctably thru vegetarianism. » A declaration that discredits both vegetarians and all who oppose the seal hunt by associating them with fundamentalism,  manipulation and monetary diversions.

In her letter to Mr. Sarkozy, Mrs. Hervieux-Payette justified her affirmation that the « animalist organizations manipulated emotions to lucrative ends » by giving numbers that came from the Center for Consumer Freedom(CCF), a multi-million dollar lobbying group that is anti-democratic and is extremely right wing american, who do media campaigns against animal defenders and animal rights groups, like the Humane Society of the United-States(HSUS) and PETA and many more. www.consumerdeception.com/append4.asp).

The CCF is rather badly placed to give lessons on ethics to animal rights groups. While it presents itself as a non-profit organization, it pockets millions of dollars from various multinationals for whom it does it’s lobbying and it’s financial statements remain secret. All the work done by the CCF is as much about defamation and insults towards animal defenders, ecologists or the organizations that fight for reglementation of tobacco, sugar or drunk driving.

Each time Mrs Hervieux-Payette talks during her crusade for the seal industry, in the media or in her released statements, she never misses a chance to make the association vegetarianism, violence and animal activists. She nearly seems to have a fixation. Her statements don’t rely on arguments or facts on the hunt itself, but essentially on denigration and threatening remarks towards those who oppose : « the vegetarian lobbies have become extremists who don’t respect our democratic institutions by using wild methods to arrive at their ends. That just deeply discredits the cause they defend. » While speaking about the opposers, she declared to the Senate, in 2009 : « I thus call on the government to apply all means to end this lobbying of Vegetarian groups on Canadian soil. »

Senator Mac Harb

Could the Senator Mac Harb be considered a « fundamentalist » or a « vegan extremist » who wants to dirty the sealers image just because he speaks out against the commercial seal hunt? This Senator is not vegetarian, nor is he an activist for animal rights. In March of 2010, he attempted to introduce a bill for a law to abolish this hunt: « Now is the time to hold a rational and open debate on the very existence of the commercial seal hunt in this country. Last year, this hunt, that only brought in a million dollars to the few sealers who managed to go to the hunt, that probably did’nt even cover their expenses, has cost considerable losses to the Canadian taxpayers and largely harms the reputation of Canada on the international scene. » He has received thousands of letters and emails in support of his proposed law from all over Canada. As a bonus, with insults too, when he wanted to pass it before the Senate.

Animal protection groups as diverse as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA), the Foundation 30 million d’Amis and the Franz Weber Foundation(FWF) have been actively speaking out against the commercial seal hunt for decades. As of the end of the 1970’s, the Franz Weber Foundation went with some observers to document the hunt. All these organizations are legal and non-violent. Despite that, as they took a position or because of their observances of the hunt, they had to endure harassement and threats of death and even violent acts from angry sealers.

Vegans = terrorists

Mr. Arseneau, is trying on every platform to put all those who oppose the commercial seal hunt in the same category by presenting them all as terrorists. He is trying to demonize the vegetarians/vegans, by fueling a form of paranoia about them.

On their Facebook page, just a few days ago, that those who oppose the hunt are « veg-animalist-terrorists » who teach their children about their form of terrorism like « Hitler & Aiqua-Ida » (Al Qaeda?). « We have to get rid of these animalists« , he affirmed recently on the official Facebook page of the Green Party of Quebec, that he floods with hateful comments towards animal defenders.

Liberty Of Expression?

The Federal government has already spent close to $2 million dollars to survey what journalists said about him in 2010. They also paid $75,000 to a private Toronto firm to survey what was said about the commercial seal hunt on discussion forums and on Facebook. The firms workers answered online with false identities, without saying they were working for the government.

Where is the freedom of expression guaranteed by the canadian Charter of rights and liberties? Has giving our opinions become an offense? Does Mrs. Hervieux-Payette agree with personal telephone numbers or addresses of those who oppose the hunt be posted on the public site that the sealers have, that she is an administrator of along with other members of Government? Did she show her disapproval when the sealers violently attacked European Deputies and journalists, who went as observers in Canada, in 2006? Does she approve of such criminal acts?

Non-violence – AHIMSA

Wanting to associate all those who oppose the commercial seal hunt with terrorism and vegetarianism with violence makes a worthless type of propaganda in a country that calls itself democratic.

Gary L Francione, already cited, spoke very well on the position of the majority of all those against the commercial seal hunt when he said: « I think the abolishionist movement for the rights of animals must have a non-violent approach, as much towards individual relationships as Ideologies(…) the movement has to see itself as the next step towards the peace movement; all the while rejecting injustice as a movement. The problem of exploitation is complex and is rooted in our odacious tolerance of violence towards the more vulnerable. Not only is violence a problem on moral grounds, but also as far as strategy. »

Marjolaine Jolicoeur – ahimsa@distributel.net

(1)Nowadays, 98% of the seals killed by the commercial hunt are between the ages of 12 days and 1 year as what can only be called the biggest marine mammal slaughter int he world. But it seems difficult to control the actions of the sealers. Certain among them have privately said to agents of the Minister of the Department of Oceans and Fisheries (DOF) following certain investigations that were made public following requests of information: « …I saw 7 babies thrown overboard following the skinning of a female. We were on very low setting the 10th of March 1998, because I noticed that there were on 8 of the 10 ice flows, young babies with postpartum and other residues right after birth on the ice… »I seen an unborn baby slip out of a female’s stomach as she was being gutted. …The Seal had been dead for a good while. That day, we caught 170. Someone said:  » If only Greenpeace was here to see it »

(2) AHIMSA is a Sanskrit word meaning non-violence and popularized by Gandhi, I admire his way of thinking of way of life. Gandhi was pushing for global non-violence, as much for humans, the animals and the planet

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