Monday, March 2, 2009

European Union vote could lead to tight ban on Canadian seal products

The Canadian Press - Monday, March 2, 2009

The European Union took another step toward a ban on Canadian seal products Monday as a parliamentary committee rejected a proposal to label the products instead.

A vote by the EU parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee endorsed a bill that would impose a ban on the import of all seal products to the 27-member union. It voted 25-7 in favour of the ban.

The same bill granted an exemption to Canada's Inuit to continue to trade seal products "for cultural, educational or ceremonial purposes."

The decision drew immediate reaction from those for and against Canada's East Coast hunt, which is the largest in the world. Over the last three years the total allowable catch has been set at between 270,000 and 335,000 seals annually.

"I'm very disappointed that elected officials in Europe are going against World Trade Organization rulings and legal opinions," said Rob Cahill of the Canadian Fur Institute. "It's not over, but I think this is a real setback."

Cahill said it was clear that years of lobbying by anti-sealing and animal rights groups in North America and Europe had gained traction with a number of politicians.

"Those campaigns are very strong in Europe ... and I think it's just the culmination of many years of that movement coming into place," he said.

Meanwhile, those opposed to the hunt were heralding the news as a strong indication the battle is being won.

"It's a fantastic step forward in the campaign to stop commercial seal slaughters around the world," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International Canada.

She said the committee vote "will carry a lot of weight" when the EU assembly votes on a bill, which could come as early as April.

In order to become law, the bill must be approved by the entire EU assembly and EU governments.

The committee decision follows an intense lobbying effort in recent weeks by Canadian politicians looking to convince the European body that the commercial harp seal hunt is humane.

The committee endorsed plan brands seal hunting as "inherently inhumane" and calls for the EU to heed public calls for a ban.

"It's clear they haven't taken into account information from Canada to the contrary of some of the things that they (opponents) continue to say as being facts about the hunting of seals," said Cahill.

Federal officials have estimated an EU ban would chop half the annual value of the hunt, which currently stands at $13 million.

Nordic EU countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Finland have opposed such a ban, and legal experts say it could violate world trade rules. Seals are also hunted in Namibia, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

British lawmaker Diana Wallis, who is drafting the EU assembly bill, had recommended the tough labelling rules - instead of a ban - as the way to ensure sealing countries adhere to EU animal welfare rules. But lawmakers in her committee rejected her compromise and opted for the ban instead.

She warned such a ban could lead to legal problems under world trade rules.

"My fear is that a ban will just leave the European public still seeing the same pictures on their TV screens of the Canadian seal cull next year as they see this year," Wallis said after the vote.

The EU has banned the import of white pelts from baby seals since 1983.

Several European Union nations, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, also have their own bans on all seal products. The United States has banned Canadian seal products since 1972.

Cahill said he hoped many of the countries who hunt seals would come forward during the next step in the EU's process to help keep the bill from passing.

In fact, EU members including Denmark, Sweden and Finland have opposed a ban.
But Aldworth contends Monday's vote was a "positive indication" that the end to Canada's commercial seal hunt is in the offing.

"I think this is a very historic moment in the campaign to stop commercial sealing in Canada," she said.

- With files from The Associated Press

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Anglers net fish and funds for charity

The St. Catharines Standard - Saturday, February 28, 2009


It’s the kind of wound that has the makings of good fishing hole lore.

Especially if it leaves a scar.

As Lindsay Smith pressed a bloody kleenex to his thumb to soothe the bite marks from a fish he caught Saturday morning, he imagined the potential his injured finger held.

He could really get people hook, line and sinker, if he wanted to.

“It was a huge pike, a 10-pounder, and it had my whole hand in his mouth,” Smith said with a grin while an equally proud-looking pike lied in a yellow bucket at his feet.

But that’s not exactly what happened.

The St. Catharines man headed onto a frozen Martindale Pond Saturday morning to reel in the big one at a charity ice-fishing derby.

Nearly three hours later, he netted a three-pound, 23-inch pike. But when the avid angler went to take the hook out of its mouth, the feisty fish got revenge.

“He kind of flopped and clamped,” onto Smith’s thumb.

It took the help of a fishing buddy to pry the pesky pike off his finger.

“Their teeth are so sharp, once they clamp on you, you need help opening their mouth. I should know better but I thought I could get the hook out,” Smith said.

Smith was one of nearly 50 people who participated in the derby with the hopes of snagging prize-winning pike or perch.

Organized by 17-year-old Bowen Sandercock, the annual event served as fundraiser for The Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake teen started the derby three years ago in honour of Bradley Perzul, a Niagara Falls man who died two years ago after a heart transplant.

Blogger's Note:

My problem with this story isn't that people are trying to raise money for charity, it's that in doing so, they're harming others. Why can't people come up with ways of helping people without causing suffering and death to other animals?

The reporter also makes it sound as if the fish, after enduring the pain of having a hook stuck through its face and struggling to survive inside a plastic pail, was having as much fun as the kid who caught it.

The other thing is that when a newspaper runs a story like this, they never cover the other side of it. In not doing so, it reinforces the belief that this is okay, because no opposing voices are heard.

If they ran a story about a group of women who decided to go topless at a street corner to raise money for charity, the newspaper would also report that certain people were opposed to this kind of exploitation and objectification of women. If they didn't, there would no doubt be letters from members of the public accusing the newspaper of sexism.

But when it comes to animal exploitation, as in the fishing story above, this never happens. Newspapers need to be more objective when covering such issues.