Saturday, April 12, 2008

Focus from seals to humans

Delegation highlights humane, historic side of hunting

Humans risk their lives for their livelihoods since the days of yore and the fact came alive with the death of four seal hunters in the icy North Atlantic waters recently.

While the protesters were trying to find more footage to prove the “inhumane” angle and a Canadian delegation was visiting Europe to nullify those efforts, the accident cut short this year’s hunt for the area of Iles-de-la-Madeleine as hunters left the ice floes out of respect for their lost comrades.

In the comparatively warmer labyrinth of European Union, a delegation from across the Atlantic, led by Loyola Sullivan, Canada’s Ambassador of Fisheries Conservation, argued the case of an “age-old” traditional way of life for seal hunters and the right to selfdetermination.

Echoing the sentiment, Paul Okalik, Premier, Government of Nunavut, told New Europe, “We are here to tell the truth and explain our story. When people open their eyes and ears they will understand that we are doing what every human on earth is doing - earning a living, eating and surviving.”

The visit came in the light of earlier reports that European Commissioner Stavros Dimas was considering a ban on seal products within the EU in the coming months.

Reiterating her earlier comments, Barbara Helfferich, the spokeswoman for commissioner Dimas, told journalists last week, “We are concerned about inhumane hunting of seals. We support sustainable hunting. We are preparing a paper, a communication that takes account of these issues and we hope to have something ready before June or before the summer to be correct.”

Asked to comment on the fact that the Canadian seal hunt is already on and the commission report is not expected before the summer, Helfferich said, “The season for Canada is on. It is limited to particular Canadian quota. Whatever we are doing, we are doing in general, we are not targeting any particular country. So I can not comment on season or not season.”

Confirming the visit of the Canadian delegation she said, “I have nothing more to say on the issue. Mr. Sullivan has been visiting the commission, the cabinet of Commissioner Dimas.”

Lamenting the negative publicity by vested interests, Sullivan told New Europe, “The bad publicity caused by misinformation is of great concern to us. Our job is to correct this misinformation to ensure the public have all the faces on the issue. Unfortunately, this misinformation is driven by various groups who use the seal harvest as a main method of raising money.”

Earlier at a press conference, Sullivan hinted at retaliatory action by Canada within the framework of World Trade Organization (WTO) in case the EU considers ban on seal products, “I believe strongly that there shouldn’t be restrictions on access to markets... The European Commission has an obligation to live up to their commitments. We hope they exercise that right.”

Reflecting on the position of the Canadian government which is taking these EU trade action threats “very seriously,” Sullivan said, “(The Canadian government will defend) the legitimate sustainable, humane, economic activity for some of the most disadvantaged people in our country.”

Challenging the information being churned out by various sources about Canadian seal hunting, Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador said, “We have to keep doing what we’re doing now to ensure that the correct information gets out. We challenge those engaged in the debate to be responsible with regards to their research and to ensure that the information they are putting forward is correct.”

Earlier, one reliable Canadian government source familiar with the hunt had told New Europe, “The recommendations made in the recent report by the European Food Safety Authority (published in December 2007) uphold the legitimacy and humaneness of the hunting practices and techniques that are used, regulated and enforced in Canada’s annual commercial seal hunt. Canada has also supplied information to the authors of a study commissioned by the European Commission on the socio-economic and animal welfare aspects of seal hunting.”

Although Greenland, Norway, Russia and even the EU member state Finland take to seal hunting, it is only Canada’s annual culling of seals which attracts ire of international environmental campaigners and animal protection groups.

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