It’s been a summer of swine and seals in the office of the International Trade Minister, Stockwell Day. Colloquially, H1N1 is called swine flu and it’s been causing some trade sniffles for Canada as we’ve been affected by cases in almost every region, while other countries are taking it as an excuse for trade protectionism. Another file on Day’s desk is the EU decision to ban the marketing of seal goods. I had a chance to chat with the Trade Minister on these topics and briefly on the topic of free trade.
The seal hunt has always been heated debate in Canada. This country’s Conservative government has been supportive of the Maritimers that depend upon sealing as part of their livelihoods while support from other parties has been ambiguous.
Liberal Senator Mac Harb is the leading Canadian political voice against the hunt. His Bill S-229 would outlaw the commercial seal hunt.
Here’s Senator Harb in Ottawa’s Byward Market on March 15th of this year,
Just a few blocks away, a Lush Cosmetics store has also made its position clear in the debate. The store, among the over 40 Lush locations nationwide, is protesting the seal hunt. Present on the front of the Lush website is a white baby seal with the words “End Canada’s license to kill” emblazoned overtop in red.
We also learn from their website that Lush is partnering with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to raise money for the organization,
“For the campaign LUSH has partnered with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a direct action group that has been at the forefront of defending baby seals against slaughter for over 30 years. Sea Shepherd volunteers risk their safety and face the possibility of arrest to document and witness the killing of baby seals (illegal to do without the permission from the Canadian Government). They go directly onto the ice packs of Eastern Canada to document the cruelty of the seal hunt and expose the truth to the world.”
For $19.95 you can buy a “charity pot” of lotion “gorgeously fragranced with ylang ylang, geranium and marigold essential oils” with “every penny of the retail price (excluding taxes) [going] directly into a charitable fund to support animal rights, environmental protection and humanitarian concerns.” Currently, Lush Cosmetics is supporting the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
What is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, you may ask? Are they heroic documentary filmmakers? The organization started as a splinter group from Greenpeace and its activists regularly engage in not only protest, but the destruction of commercial property and in the endangerment of the lives and safety of fishers.
The group has harassed and attacked Japanese and Canadian vessels. In a string of incidents involving the Japanese, activists from Sea Shepherd threw butyric acid on the decks of three vessels injuring a crew member in one incident. The group has also used its own ships to caused extensive damage to commercial fishers. Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson boasts,
“Yes we have sunk whaling ships, rammed whalers and drift netters, boarded poaching vessels and destroyed equipment used for illegal exploitation of the oceans and we believe that these are valid tactics.”
In this video, the Sea Shepherd’s vessel the Steve Irwin rams a Japanese fishing ship.
On the tragic deaths of four fishers who perished after their sealing vessel sank while a Canadian Coast Guard vessel was towing it after it had been disabled (unrelated to Sea Shepherd activities), Watson wrote,
“The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society recognizes that the deaths of four sealers is a tragedy but Sea Shepherd also recognizes that the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups is an even greater tragedy.”
“One of the sealers was quoted as saying that he felt absolutely helpless as he watched the boat sink with sealers onboard,” said Captain Paul Watson. “I can’t think of anything that defines helplessness and fear more than a seal pup on the ice that can’t swim or escape as it is approached by some cigarette smoking ape with a club. This is a seal nursery and these men are sadistic baby killers and that might offend some people but it is the unvarnished truth – they are vicious killers who are now pleading for sympathy because some of their own died while engaged in a viciously brutal activity.”
Watson was criticized by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the remark
“It’s despicable that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society would use the death of Canadian sealers to try and advance its campaign of misinformation against the seal hunt.”
The Fisheries minister at the time had this to say about Watson’s statements,
“By attacking and trivializing the memory of these men who tragically lost their lives, Mr. Watson has proven to the world that he is gutless, shameless, and has not one shred of human decency. His lust for media coverage knows no bounds.
On behalf of the Government of Canada, I want to once again express our condolences to the family and loved ones of these sealers.
Our government has said that it will stand up for the safety and security of sealers, and I want to confirm that the militant actions of the Sea Shepherd Society have not gone unnoticed are currently under investigation.” — Canadian Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn
“We have always pledged to take a non-violent approach to saving the whale,’ said Holden. ‘We are not going to compromise on those ideals and we are not going to help people who have said they will use violence. We are here to save the whale, not put the lives of whalers at risk.” — Greenpeace spokesperson Sara Holden speaking about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Here’s an alleged history of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s activities (originally published at The Institute for Cetacean Research, the aforementioned Japanese group attacked by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)
But there’s your neighbourhood cosmetics store taking a stand for “social justice”, for the “environment”, and for “animal rights” but one wonders if they’ve done their research on the folks with whom they’re now sharing a bed. Customers will hopefully ask themselves that by patronizing Lush, buying their “charity pots” are they instead enabling something more sinister?
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Paul Watson describes the use of the seal hunt as a poster campaign for environmental groups.
I’m hopeful that Lush and its customers don’t want to enrich Watson and enable his attacks elsewhere. We should all call upon Lush to drop its association with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Here is their email if you’d like to contact them:
Please tell them too that the commercial seal hunt is important for jobs in Atlantic Canada.
Yesterday, I wrote a post with some general musings about political communications and how it complements politics and the public policy process. In short, I argued that when one criticizes the method by which another releases news instead of the substance of the news itself, it’s already a lost battle.
The example I brought up yesterday was Ontario Premier Dalton’s McGuinty’s unsurprising leak of Ontario’s budget shortfall projecting an $18 Billion deficit over two years. I suggested that we would be more productive debating how we got to this fiscal position and how to remedy it whereas the cheap and easy solution is to criticize the communications strategy of the leak (as the federal Liberals did when the Conservatives did this with the federal budget).
Today’s example is this business about the seal hunt and federal fisheries minister Gail Shea’s use of ministerial resources to put out partisan messaging. The substance of the message is the suggestion that Liberals are against the seal hunt. To be against the seal hunt may bring nugatious satisfaction to urban-dwelling self-styled sophisticates who would croak that such an industry is “dreadful” and “appalling” while it is the causus belli of the constituents of a block of Altantic ridings. Even Stephane Dion recognized the political disaster that would come from speaking out against the hunt. But the Liberals are not wisely measuring the risk of their latest moves against the Conservatives on the peripherals of this issue.
Yes, Gail Shea’s office made a mistake but it is perhaps a larger – yet characteristically instinctive – mistake for Liberals to criticize the method when by doing so they force wider the path to highlight the substance of the release. While Ottawa people get caught up in the fact that Stephen Harper’s minister didn’t dot her i’s and cross her t’s in the proper and polite procedural fashion, the real folks in Atlantic Canada look right past the syntax snafu and have another news cycle to consider that the folks in Ottawa that may be taking away their livelihood and according to this “press release scandal” those folks are Liberals!
For the Liberals, this is a classic example of not seeing the forest for the trees or in this case the seal hunt for the jobs. Instead, they’re getting caught up in the syntax of it all.