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Are Newfoundlanders Throwing in the Towel?

Are Newfoundlanders Throwing in the Towel?

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson with Ed Smith   

I met Ed Smith back in 1976 the first time I went to Newfoundland to oppose the barbaric slaughter of the baby seals. He was then as he is now a reporter, and he is a good one although limited in expression by the dictates of his geographical circumstances. 

Today he writes a column for the St. John’s Telegram, the primary newspaper in the Canadian province of Newfoundland.

He supported the seal slaughter in 1976, of course. He really had no choice. It would have been professional suicide for any journalist in Newfoundland to oppose the whacking of baby seals. Back in the 70’s and the 80’s a Newfoundlander had two choices: support the slaughter or shut up. Compassion for the seals was akin to spitting on the flag.

I found Ed to be an intelligent man, despite being a hardcore defender of the slaughter, so I knew that if one day we could crack his faith in the importance of seal clubbing to the culture of Newfoundland that we would finally defeat this rapacious obscenity.

Below is Ed Smith’s column for this last weekend and it is a very insightful perspective on how even the Newfoundlanders are giving up on defending this indefensible abomination. If nothing else Ed is a realist, and in this column he is admitting that the seal hunt is defeated.

This does not mean that we should ever step down from being vigilant. The bloody cruelty that humankind has perpetuated for centuries against these innocent creatures has not been buried long. The corpse of the sealing industry is still warm and we must continue to hammer the wooden stake of kindness and ecological sanity through the blackened heart of this vampire-ish evil ritual of death. We may have to wait a generation before the culture of the baby killers of Newfoundland and the Magandertal Islands is forever eradicated from the civilized world.

But in the meantime, the market for seal products is dead. Only 25% of the Canadian kill quota was taken leaving over 200,000 baby seals alive on the ice and free to live, to swim, to be seals, what nature intended them to be. Most of the sadistic club-swinging thugs that call themselves “swilers” chose to stay at home this year because they could not afford to make their way to the nurseries to inflict misery on the seals.

This is Ed’s column from this week with my comments:

The seal of disapproval
The Telegram

I have been a great supporter of the Olympics. Other Half and I spend many hours watching them, summer and winter, every two years. Can't wait for each year to pass so we can climb on the bandwagon or the sofa, whichever is more appropriate, and cheer on our Canadian teams.

We even appreciate great performances from other countries. Nothing political about us - unless Canadians are involved. We do refuse to cheer for the Iraqi and Afghan marksmen squads. No, we haven't seen them, but we wouldn't cheer for them if we did. Please don't quibble over irrelevant details.

Let's jump ahead to what is fast becoming the great non-event of our times: the annual seal hunt. For those of you who've been dead and buried for the past three weeks, I have to tell you that the commercial seal hunt is deader than you are.

Captain Paul Watson: There we have it. Ed has declared the seal hunt dead.

You may not like to hear that, especially if you're a seal hunter. On the other hand, sealers know the truth of it better than anyone. They know the price of pelts may buy you enough gas to get out of the harbour, but it sure as hell won't get you back in. The Europeans have seen to that.

You do know by now that the EU Parliament has voted for a ban on all seal products, and no, they're not just talking about flippers. Not that many flipper dinners in France and Britain this time of year.

Paul Watson: Despite the Europeans eating such disgusting things as diseased livers, horsemeat, and songbirds, they could never lower themselves to eating the flippers off baby seals

"All seal products" means primarily sealskin products. It does not include seal meat. You might as well try to sell cod tongues on the Riviera or fish and brewis in Paris.

Captain Watson: I believe that Ed is wrong about this. I have seen cod tongues served on the Riviera.

I know it's supposed to be crass to say it even if we are excused for thinking it. But yes, you're right. These are the same European countries for whom a generation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians bought freedom and paid for it with their blood.

Captain Watson: This is the most ingenuous argument that the Newfoundlanders have ever used to defend their brutality against the seals. Farley Mowat is a WWII war hero and he is opposed to the seal slaughter. My uncle Paul Watson was slain in WWII and I know many Canadians who are appalled by the slaughter who served or whose grandfathers or fathers fought in that war. I think it is outrageous to suggest that Canadian soldiers fought and died so that Europeans would respect the barbarism of the seal slaughter. A statement like this is the epitome of arrogance. Ed appears to be saying that the values of Newfoundlanders are more important than the values of the rest of Canada.

I know the arguments against that attitude and normally I'd agree. But when I see the livelihood being wiped out of men whose fathers and uncles and grandfathers gave their lives - and would do so again - to preserve the way of life of these same people, my blood pressure starts to rise.

Captain Watson: Sealing is an insignificant economic enterprise and this idea of livelihoods being wiped out is ludicrous. It’s all subsidized anyways. Sealing has no place in the 20th Century. World War II was fought to free the world of Nazi tyranny. It had absolutely nothing to do with defending the horrific and savage slaughter of seals. 

I wonder what my Uncle Ed, who gave his life when hardly out of his teens, would think if he were here today.

Captain Watson: I wonder what my Uncle Paul Watson who gave his life in the North Atlantic in his early twenties would think of this arrogant statement by Ed Smith.

OK, how long are they supposed to remain grateful? Seems to me to be the same question his followers asked Jesus: how often should one forgive another? Should we expect them to vote against their conscience? No, but we can expect them to listen carefully to our people before taking the word of the likes of Heather Mills or Paul McCartney or Brigitte Bardot.

Captain Watson: That’s Sir Paul McCartney to you Mr. Smith and if the Queen of England has knighted him, who are you to refer to him as “the likes of”. What is so damn bad about Paul McCartney? Do you not like his music? Does his being a vegan offend you? The Europeans made a decision to ban seal products because it was the ethically correct thing to do. It is also a little strange to invoke the name of Jesus Christ when justifying the slaughter of what Labrador missionary Wilfred Grenfell once referred to the baby seals as “kotik,” the “lamb of God.”

But they didn't, and for that I hold them accountable.

Captain Watson: I’m sure that there are European Parliamentarians losing sleep over the fact that Ed Smith holds them accountable.

One might have expected that the Prime Minister, out of his great love for this province and its people, might have put up a bit of a stronger argument to the Europeans when he talked to them about free trade last week. But, as he himself said, he couldn't jeopardize other areas of trade with Canada by coming on too strong about seals.

Captain Watson: Even Prime Minster Stephen Harper is not so loony as to scuttle a 25 billion dollar trade deal to defend a 7 million dollar industry. The Canadian government spent millions defending the seal slaughter in Europe and they failed because they were defending the indefensible.

That shouldn't surprise us too much. The same thing has been done over the years with foreign countries being allowed to rape and pillage our fish stocks. Fish were given away in their millions of metric tonnes in exchange for considerations for goods from other Canadian provinces.

Captain Watson: It wasn’t just the foreigners who destroyed the cod and other species. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans oversaw this ecological disaster and Newfoundland fishermen did their part to add to the diminishment. Where was the support when I went out in 1993 to chase the foreign draggers off the Grand Banks?

Perhaps you were as pleasantly surprised as I when the Members of Parliament voted to have Canadian athletes wear a patch of sealskin on their uniforms during the Winter Olympics next year in BC. Well done, boys and girls!

Captain Watson: This was a display of sheer diplomatic lunacy. There was no way in hell that the international Olympic committee was going to allow the games to be used for political purposes.

But then our athletes reacted, as did the Canadian Olympic Committee. No way Jose! A variety of reasons were given. One young stalwart stated in no uncertain terms that he would not wear anything that encouraged the killing of baby seals. Wow! Straight to heaven for that bit of animal ethics alone.

Captain Watson: Yes, our athletes are Canadians, not club swinging Newfoundlanders, and of course they reacted. These young men and women are competing in the name of Canadians, all Canadians, and not just the knuckle draggers who bash in the heads of baby seals every year who seem to think that all Canadians owe them respect for their barbaric traditions. 

It goes without saying, of course, that this young man wouldn't be caught dead in ski boots or skates made of leather. Certainly not! None of these athletes will be eating lamb or veal. A side trip to a local slaughterhouse should keep them off chicken and beef, at least for the duration of their stay. They'll just have to eat fish for protein.

Captain Watson: Ed, when did you last go skiing or perhaps you never have. Otherwise you would know that ski boots are not made of leather. And although I am an advocate of veganism, there can be no comparison between the slaughter of the seals and the slaughter of domestic animals. The killing that takes place on the ice fields off Eastern Canada is cruel and if an abattoir worker did what these men do on the ice, they would be fired. And Ed, fish are animals also. And one other thing Ed, I know some Canadian Olympic team members and they are, dare I say it – vegetarian.  

I don't mean to compare these youngsters with seasoned European parliamentarians. The kids are just ignorant. So are the Europeans, of course, but there's less excuse for them.

It's been made clear on several occasions that the Canadian public isn't exactly enamored of the seal hunt. Given their druthers, they'd just as soon see everything east of Québec cut adrift. It's all "Down East" to them, anyway, and somewhat of an embarrassment when they visit abroad.

Captain Watson: There we have it. In the words of a Newfoundland journalist we have the bold pronouncement that Canadian athletes are just ignorant. You see the definition of ignorance in Newfoundland is anyone who disagrees with a Newfoundlander. And by the way Ed, I was raised in a fishing village east of Quebec. Rebecca Aldworth was raised in Newfoundland. And yes, it is an embarrassment to be confronted by people in other nations over this despicable obscenity called the seal slaughter.

"Yes, my dear, those horrid little Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are still slaughtering those beautiful baby seals, but we don't have much to do with them, you know."

Captain Watson: Gee Ed, you caught my sentiments exactly and I wish we did not have much to do with them but unfortunately the Canadian tax-payers have been forking over the dole to support the quaint and cruel traditions of you guys on the Rock and we will continue to do so because keeping Newfoundlanders in the style they have become accustomed to since 1949 is the price we have to pay for bringing you into the Dominion. If not for Newfoundland, Canadians would not have cause to feel ashamed of the thuggery on the ice every year.

But then came the killer of them all. Some people in our own beloved capital city of St. John's were interviewed on the street. They were asked a simple question, "Would you give up (European) wines to protest their ban on seal products?"

Captain Watson: This is like asking someone to give up eating something of real value in return for protecting something worthless and outdated.

The answers from our fellow Newfoundlanders were the final nail in the seal hunt coffin. Incredibly, all but one said a definite and resounding "No!" No way would they switch to Israeli, or Australian or South African or Californian or even Canadian wines to support the seal hunt. How much can we expect them to sacrifice, after all?

Captain Watson: Let me see, Canadian wines, what a temptation that is. Not! French and Italian wines are the very best and the whole world knows it; and what does Newfoundland have to offer? The bloody skins of baby animals ripped off their screaming backs by vicious barbaric killers.

Any Newfoundlander with a modicum of common sense knows that the seal slaughter is dead and Ed, you are an intelligent man, and although you find it distasteful to say so, you at least have the integrity to admit that the slaughter has been defeated. 

How silly are we now in light of that to expect the support of anyone else in this whole wide Earth!

Captain Watson: A very profound observation Ed.

Silly and stupid to think that we even deserve it.

Captain Watson: I have fought this savage slaughter all of my life and I cannot express adequately enough just how relieved and happy I am at this outcome. For the first time since I can ever remember I can honestly say I am no longer ashamed to be a Canadian.

Source: Paul Watson MySpace

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