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Snubbing the seal trade

Blocked from trading in 30 other countries, Canada’s seal industry has set its sights on China, to the fury of local animal welfare campaigners. Meng Si reports.

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On March 29, the Canadian authorities finally responded to months of criticism from Chinese animal-protection groups, angered by the country’s determination to foster a seal trade with China. “If Chinese consumers like seal products, both countries benefit,” wrote the Canadian ambassador to Beijing, David Mulroney, in reply to an open letter signed by more than 50 organisations.

The critics were unimpressed. “Canada’s excuses haven’t changed, and they have failed to respond to NGO revelations about seal massacres,” Qin Xiaona, head of the Capital Animal Welfare Association, said to chinadialogue. Thirty countries, including European Union nations, the United States, Croatia and Mexico have banned the trade in seal products. Many animal protection groups are calling on the Chinese authorities to do the same.

But the Canadian government has been running a publicity campaign of its own

“We know that China is a huge potential market,” said Gail Shea, Canada’s minister of fisheries and oceans, during a trip to China in January last year. Following another visit a year later, she had even more exciting news for the seal industry back home: new arrangements for market entry would mean that, from January 13, 2011, the full range of Canadian seal products could be exported to China – including meat and oil for human consumption.

However, Qin Xiaona told chinadialogue that she had confirmed with the Chinese government that no legally binding agreement on market access has yet been signed – just a statement of intent – and the Chinese government has already met with the Canadian authorities to discuss the matter. “The publication of this inaccurate information by the Canadian government is inappropriate and benefits neither nation,” she said.

This has not deterred the Canadian media from presenting it as a done deal. Headlines such as “China gives Canada its approval of seal” and “Canada to ink deal to sell seal meat and oil in China” appeared in mainstream media outlets. The Globe and Mail quoted Wayne MacKinnon, the chairman of DPA Industries, a manufacturer of seal-oil supplements, as saying, “The Chinese eat anything. And they simply don’t understand why you would put one animal above another.” Other reports said that the Chinese have no regard for animal welfare and no related legislation.

On March 28, the China Chamber of International Commerce held a seminar on the seal trade at which Li Jianqiang, China policy consultant for Humane Society International, described the reports as “an accumulation of prejudice and error” and said that the Canadian government had rushed to release the “good news” in order to win over interested voters. “Gail Shea is actually misleading the seal industry,” Li said. “The Canadian government is clasping a worthless agreement and telling them the door is open, now get out there and if you can’t it’s your problem.” It is a cheap trick, he said.

Chinese animal protection groups have also objected to Canada’s publicity campaign.

To mark International Day of the Seal on March 15 and kick start a year of campaigning against Canadian seal products, the China Animal Protection Media Salon, Beijing-based NGO Green Beagle and the Capital Animal Welfare Association launched a new song, “Seal Baby”. At the same time, a member of the National Peoples’ Consultative Conference, Zhang Kangkang, proposed a ban on the import of Canadian seal products.

Speaking at a press conference in Beijing in November last year, Rebecca Aldworth, executive chair of the Humane Society International’s Canadian branch said: “Every year for the last 12 years I have observed the massacre of seals. I have witnessed indescribable cruelty, including wounded animals suffocating on their own blood, being beaten and dragged across the ice and skinned while still conscious.”

Canadian law permits the hunting of seals older than 12 days, and 97% of seals killed are less than three years old. Rebecca Aldworth said that the majority of Canadians also oppose the seal industry and do not buy seal products – and that this is why the Canadian government is putting its hopes in overseas markets. After the EU closed its doors to the products in 2009, attention shifted to China.

During her visit to China this year, Gail Shea also attended the 37th China Fur and Leather Products fair, to promote seal-fur products. This triggered a joint letter of protest from 40 animal-protection groups. At the fair, one activist pinned a banner to his own back: “Chinese people do not welcome Canadian seal products!!!”

On Chinese New Year’s eve, Guo Pei, the costume designer for the festivities’ annual TV extravaganza, received a letter of thanks from Humane Society International and 49 Chinese organisations after she announced she would not, as had been planned, use seal fur in the costume for the show’s host, Dong Qing. Chinese viewers speculated that exposure on the show would have boosted the popularity of seal fur.

The Canadian embassy had earlier issued a statement thanking Guo for her support for the seal industry, leading animal protection groups to suspect the fur to be used in the costume had been a gift from the Canadian government.

Qin Xiaona believes that these incidents are enough to prove that Chinese people are not, as international media have reported, willing to eat anything and indifferent to animal welfare. “I am sure the majority of Chinese people, once they know the truth, will reject seal products. The Canadian government has underestimated the Chinese people,” she said.

On March 13, an open letter entitled “Please don’t peddle blood-stained seal products in China” and signed by more than 50 domestic animal-protection groups was sent to Canada’s ambassador David Mulroney. His response, as explained above, disappointed Qin Xiaona. She explained that he justified his support for the seal trade on three grounds: strict government regulation ensures seal hunts are humane; excessive seal numbers are threatening the ecosystem; and the hunting and eating of seals is a traditional part of Inuit culture and livelihoods.

Qin dismissed each of these arguments: firstly, she said there is a large quantity of legally admissible video evidence that proves the Canadian government does not strictly regulate seal hunting. Secondly, there is actually a lot of debate about seal populations and, in any case, high numbers are no excuse for cruelty. And the third, cultural argument is even shakier, she said: “Every nation has some barbaric customs in its history – for example, foot-binding in China. But if people are to make progress, such customs need to be removed. Culture is no excuse for barbarism.” She said she is sure that Canada, as a developed nation, can find alternative livelihoods for the people involved in its tiny seal industry.

Chinese groups campaigning against the seal trade are urging the Chinese government to impose a trade ban. But Mei Xinyu of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation at the Ministry of Commerce said this was not the solution. At the seminar on seal products in China, Mei explained that World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules do not allow for such a ban, and giving trading partners a cause to pursue legal action against China would damage China’s standing in international trade negotiations. The European Union is currently embroiled in a WTO dispute with Canada over of its ban.

But Li Jianqiang points out that WTO rules allow for a product to be banned if it offends the moral principles of a nation. Zhang Dan, spokesperson for the China Animal Protection Media Salon, said: “The European Union and the United States are WTO members – why can they do it but China can’t?” She believes the government should follow the people’s wishes.

Mei Xinyu argued that, although the volume of seal products traded between Canada and China is tiny, a ban would lead to the customs authorities incurring large personnel and equipment costs. He suggested that the Chinese groups instead lobby the Canadian government to impose a ban on its seal industry, or concentrate on getting the WTO to change its rules.

The annual seal hunt starts again this spring, with the highest ever government quota: the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has given the go-ahead for 400,000 animals to be killed off Canada’s east coast. Before leaving China for the scene of the hunt, Rebecca Aldworth said: “China’s attitude is crucial. Chinese consumers could stop the next seal massacre.”

Meng Si is managing editor in chinadialogue’s Beijing office.

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Default thumb avatar
friendsforseals

长大尚有待时日

这是一篇非常出色的文章。
从更高的海豹捕杀配额来看,加拿大政府对欧盟海豹贸易禁令的无视已昭然若揭,然而不幸地显示出了动物保护主义者所正面对的心态。

任何企业如果创造的产品无人问津(更不用说是一个靠纳税人补助的产业了),都是一种令人讨厌的不负责任的表现。

没有人想要海豹产品,但令人担忧的是加拿大的渔业及海洋部无视绝大多数的人的反对,其行为就像一个被宠坏的孩子,将手指放到耳朵里,只装没听到。

Time to grow up

An excellent article.
The defiant attitude by Canada's government toward the EU ban, manifesting itself with a higher kill quota, unfortunately shows the mentality animal activists are dealing with.
Any business, let alone a taxpayer subsidized industry, which creates a "product" when there are no buyers, shows horrendous irresponsibility.
No one wants seal products and it's concerning that Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans is putting it's fingers in their ears and ignoring the majority, as a spoiled child would behave, pretending they don't hear.

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canada

加拿大驻中国大使的回复

亲爱的孟斯,

这篇关于加拿大海豹制品的文章只是从我写给动物保护组织的信中引述了短短的一段,而你将更多的空间留给了异见那一方。
如果能坐下来和你聊聊加拿大海豹贸易的话题,我会感到很高兴,除此之外,我想请你考虑考虑接下来的这些我那封信中的内容:
“格陵兰海豹是加拿大产量最大的物种,其数量已升至900万,是1970年时的4倍。灰海豹的数量上升至35万头,是1960年时的10倍。每年捕猎的配额都是根据科学建议进行的,为了保证海豹长期数量的稳定和健康。
“加拿大政府非常重视其在环境保护中的管理者的角色。加拿大海豹的捕猎也是严格依据动物保护准则高度管制的。”
我的完整回复在这里:http://bit.ly/j2xB14
诚挚致意
David Mulroney
大使

Reply from Canada's Ambassador to China

Dear Meng Si,

This article on Canadian seal products only includes a very short quote from my recent letter to the Capital Animal Welfare Association. You allowed much more space to those of a different opinion.

I would be happy to sit down and talk to you on the Canadian seal trade, barring that, I would ask you to consider the following quotes, also from my letter:

“The population of harp seals, the most harvested species in Canada, has grown to more than 9 million, four times what it was in the 1970s. The grey seal population has grown to over 350,000, or 10 times what it was in the 1960s. Harvest quotas are determined each year based on scientific advice to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the population.”

"The Government of Canada takes seriously its role as steward of the environment. The Canadian seal harvest is highly regulated and guided by rigorous animal welfare principles.”

You can find my entire reply letter here: http://bit.ly/j2xB14

Sincerely,

David Mulroney
Ambassador

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friendsforseals

白纸黑字,不足以证明!

Mulroney先生,
我方组织花费数小时的时间请求加拿大渔业和海洋部来处理海豹屠杀的问题。但他们拒绝观看观察者提供的资料,触目所及的是被宰杀的受保护的白色和蓝背海豹,活生生被剥皮,活生生被钩起来上不了岸。很多行为分明触犯了海洋哺乳动物条例。公然的对动物的残暴!
当然渔民们从不会受到处罚。既然没有任何人去处罚他们,这也就不足为奇了。你关于海豹捕猎高度管制的说法由此看来根本就是无稽之谈。
政府的角色是照人民的意志行事。可能在不远的将来,政府将被迫如此,因为今年越来越多的老百姓开始厌倦为海豹屠猎者买单,称之为“无利可图的运动”。

Prove it is regulated besides in writing!

Mr Mulroney,
Our organization has spent hours begging the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada to attend the seal slaughter. They even refuse to view observer footage, which includes protected whitecoats and blueback seals being killed, skinning-alive, hooking-alive, not landing, and many more violations of Marine Mammal Regulations. Blatant animal cruelty!
Of course fishermen are never penalized. That's understandable when no one is there to penalize them!
This nullifies your statement that the seal hunt is regulated.

The role of the government is to do the will of the people. Perhaps it will be forced to in the near future, since more and more citizens are tired of paying to support what the seal killers this year cited as 'unprofitable sport'.

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meng.si

Reply to Ambassador

Dear Mr. Mulroney,
Thank for the information. I'm sure that we can never tell in one piece of article the entire story of what is going on in the seal trade debate in China. However, talking about different opinion, rather than with me, I'd love to see you sit down and talk with organizations that are against seal hunt. I'm sure that communication helps people clarify the truth. That's whatever opinion should be based on. And we as a media, will inform the public the missing part of the story if there's any.

Sincerely,
Meng Si

回复大使

亲爱的Mulroney先生,
谢谢您提供的这些信息。我明白一篇小文章不足以展现中国关于海豹贸易的争论的全貌。然而,说到意见相左,我很乐意看到你坐下来和反对海豹贸易的组织谈一谈,而不是和我。我确定沟通交流可以帮助人们澄清事实,任何意见都应基于此。同时作为媒体,如果有遗漏相关事实,我们将及时公之于众。

诚挚致意,
孟斯

Default thumb avatar
friendsforseals

等候Mulroney先生的回复

海豹之友组织已经联系了Mulroney先生的办公室,希望能得到回复。

Awaiting Mr. Mulroney's reply

FriendsForSeals.Org has contacted Mr. Mulroney's office and is hoping for a reply.