Because this blog is primarily dedicated to animal and environmental protection and aimed at a predominately American audience, I have not paid much attention to describing the undoing of long-standing democratic concepts by a succession of governments under two federal parties, yes-but to an accelerated degree by the current party in charge, the Conservative Party of Canada. This is not to say that the same concerns don't apply to the U.S. and some other Western nations. Put simply, it has been compared to switching from governance by democracy to governance by market forces (although even dogma is trumped by political need, as I will try to explain).
But, the actions of Greg Kerr have really brought it all together. Kerr, a long-time politician from Nova Scotia, now representing West Nova (one of my favorite places on Earth), is retiring from politics. His last hurrah is Bill C-555, which is nearing final passage by the House of Government. Again, put simply, the Conservative Party has what is called a majority government-meaning that, if the party's head (who is thereby the Prime Minister of Canada) supports it, it will pass.
And, what it will do is double the distance observers have to be from East coast seal hunting activity from the current half nautical mile, to a full mile. This hunt, in various, ever-changing iterations, has been under attack by humanitarians worldwide since about the late 1960s. I don't have room to go through those changes, of which one of the major ones was the switch from killing suckling baby seals by beating them to death, to killing seals about three or more weeks of age, either by beating or shooting. Another change was the severe decline in market in the U.S. first, and the European Union more recently.
The federal government consistently fights the Europeans and consistently loses. But, that stubbornness garners both Liberal and Conservative parties' votes, they seem to think, in Atlantic Canada where, of course, support is highest for the hunt. I say, of course, because cognitive science suggests that the closer we are to seeing a benefit from a behavior others may find abhorrent, the less likely we are to oppose it-especially if we see it as "traditional" and have been conditioned to think of it as helping to define and distinguish us, as opposed to others.
And, among those "others" is the aforementioned European Union. The U.S., potentially the largest market for seal products, is a "lost cause" given that its Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prevents import of marine mammal products, has worked to help reduce population declines in marine species, and that the U.S. stopped its own, much smaller-scale killing of seals-fur seals in Alaska-years ago. But, while the Canadian government continues to try to convince Asians to buy seal products, it still either does not get or thinks it can earn votes by being obtuse to the fact that Europeans are, like so many of the rest of us, appalled by the seal hunt. Much of that revulsion is fueled by photographic images of the hunt obtained by groups opposed to the slaughter.
And, while the seal hunt is in serious decline as a result of the Europeans closing the market (except for products derived from the very different aboriginal hunt for other species), there have still been a couple million animals killed in the hunt since 2002.
Kerr claims that the increased restriction is to protect sealers. If an observer's ship approaches within a half mile, it may cause cracks in ice that threaten the sealers. Nonsense... They work around their own ships. Also, while observers and protestors have never hurt sealers, the reverse is not true. One of the more egregious incidents I know of happened in 1983, when an International Fund for Animal Welfare helicopter was attacked and destroyed by sealers while being refueled. Observers and protestors have been assaulted, even beaten, but I can't recall any sealer being hurt by an observer or protestor.
But, what is sad is that Kerr, who recently suffered a mild stroke, is going out with a thud. If the bill passes, it will help those of us who oppose the hunt by illustrating the lengths Canada goes to conceal it. In a free and open society, such things should not be hidden, and others know that. If it fails, well, the anti-seal hunt movement still wins, as modern technology allows filming, even from half of a nautical mile (just slightly more than over half of a regular mile) away.
It is the hunt that is brutal and wrong, and people know that. I wish Mr. Kerr well in his retirement, but I'm sad that, with all the things that need to be improved in southwestern Nova Scotia (where the seal hunt does not even occur), he has chosen Bill C-555 as his swan song.