Thursday, March 17, 2005
Posted by Hungry Hyaena
Many environmentalists and animal rights activists are up in arms over the Canadian government's decision to allow for the culling of up to 350,000 harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus). From a conservationist's perspective, I'm not sure how to feel about the decision. Some biologists claim that harp seals are over-populated and, as a result, are adversely affecting regional cod populations. Others suggest that the seal population isn't any larger than it should be, and that the commercial fishing industry is the primary culprit in the cod population plummet. Both sides of the debate cite contrary data while pointing to apparently valid studies. As a result, outside observers intent on gathering the facts before making up their minds face a challenge.
So, I suppose I have to go with my gut reaction. Death by clubbing and sticking is not an attractive option. Line me up in your sights and put one through my heart or between my eyes, but, please, if you must shoot me, don't be on a moving platform or boat when you pull the trigger. I'd prefer not to have my lung punctured or my jaw torn asunder because of the rolling action under your feet. If, even on steady ground, you still make a bad shot, crippling instead of killing me, please do not skin me while I'm conscious. Instead, approach and put a bullet through my brain. Then wait until I've ceased struggling (even if it's just my nerves firing) before you begin to cut my flesh away from fat and muscle. While you're at it, I'd appreciate it if you take a few moments to say a prayer of gratitude for my flesh.
According to animal rights groups and activist environmental groups like Greenpeace, many of the seals are harvested in the tortuous way described above. "Harvest," when applied to an animal, is a term I do not care for. While it may be accurate, it has the effect of turning the animal population or species in question into a crop, allowing us more psychological distance from the killing involved. I do not consider the single, doe deer that I hunt to be a crop. She is a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), beautiful and alert (high-strung, even, by our human standards). For that matter, I do not consider the tomatoes or the squash grown in one's backyard a crop. I associate the term with industrial agriculture, the great, wasteful, polluting machine that so many of us today depend on.
Because of the manner in which most of the harp seals will be killed, and because of the misuse (disrespect) of the slaughtered animal, I am opposed to the authorized market hunting of harp seals.
Yet, I'm still irritated when I read that Paris Hilton has signed on to protest with the millions of urbanites around the world who are banding together to make their dissatisfaction known. At first, I believe my reaction has more to do with my rural roots, but this is the easy answer. In fact, the reaction has more to do with my fear that the majority of these protestors, Paris included, are involved for selfish reasons. They want to feel good about "saving cute animals." Rarely do these kind of casual activists demonstrate real curiosity about and or grasp of "their cause." Would Paris Hilton ever think to sit down with a harp seal biologist and learn about the species? While I can not say with any certainty, my Magic 8 Ball says, "All Signs Point To 'No.'"
Photo credit: Associated Press, 2004