activist notes

Dear Sir Paul McCartney and Protesters of the Newfoundland Seal Hunt by activistnotes

By Ian Hussey

My dad, Donald John Hussey, grew up on Bell Island, Newfoundland. He was born a couple years before Newfoundland joined the Canadian federation in 1949, which is why I consider myself a half-Newfie, half-Canadian ;). Dad’s dad, Stanley (from whom I proudly take my middle-name), worked as a miner in Wabana, an iron ore mine on Bell Island no longer in operation.

I’ve been watching the development and framing of the issue of the Newfoundland seal hunt on the television news and reading about it in the papers and on-line. And writing this post, I’ve got tears running down my cheeks. Newfoundlanders are a proud people. We aren’t perfect, but we try to be honest and, when we can find work, we work hard and thank our stars for the opportunity.

I was going to write that I am conflicted about the Newfoundland seal hunt. I’m proud of my Newfoundland and Nova Scotia heritage (my mom grew up on a farm just outside Middleton, NS, and I grew up in Hantsport, NS). Yet, I am a vegetarian; I even went vegan for a short stint. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life to give up eating seafood. The sea and seafood are a huge part of my culture. But, I made a personal choice to give up eating seafood – this was after my older brother Graeme had been a vegetarian for a while. I don’t regret that decision. I’m privileged enough to have the choice in what I eat and I’ve never been in want of food, thank goodness. I don’t judge people who eat meat or seafood or dairy or dog. Personal choice is personal choice, and people’s culture is their culture, and sometimes people don’t have a choice in what they eat – they’re just happy to have something to eat at all. I’m not about to go to Alberta and tell the meat-lovers there they shouldn’t enjoy Alberta beef, nor am I going to tell people in British Columbia not to eat salmon (but if they choose to eat salmon, I hope it isn’t factory farmed), nor am I going to tell people in Manitoba not to eat bison, nor am I going to tell Quebeckers not to eat cheese (especially since Quebec cheeses are so darn tasty!), nor am I going to tell Newfoundlanders not to eat seal.

No, I’m not conflicted about the Newfoundland seal hunt. I saw images of protesters in Washington, DC chanting “shame” on Newfoundland and Canada. I saw a video conference conversation between Sir Paul McCartney and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Premier, Danny Williams (where Sir Paul said he was in NFLD, and Danny pointed out that Sir Paul was actually on Prince Edward Island. Wrong island, Sir Paul, wrong island). I saw a Newfoundland man starved for work, who participates in the seal hunt, tell a CBC reporter something to the effect that of course he felt sympathy for the seals because, after all, he is human. I saw a teacher in Toronto, who grew up in Newfoundland, brought to tears when the same CBC reporter asked her about the seal hunt. She spoke about the tough times so many Newfoundlanders wake up facing each and every day. She spoke eloquently and proudly. She spoke with a lovely, thick Newfoundland accent.

I’d like to offer the protesters of the Newfoundland seal hunt a small bit of activist advice. If you want to end the Newfoundland seal hunt, chanting “shame” ain’t gonna cut it. Why don’t you try working to end poverty in Newfoundland and Labrador instead?

Shame on Newfoundland? Shame on you for making the good people of Newfoundland feel bad for trying to make ends meat (no pun intended). And, Sir Paul, the sweatshirt with “Canada” on the front of it you wore in that video conference with Premier Danny Williams was made in a sweatshop. Shame on you, too.   

So, my Newfoundland brothers and sisters, hold your heads up high. Better days are on the horizon.


6 Comments so far
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Well said and about time. Canadians have acted in a very cowardly fashion regarding this issue. The people of Newfoundland deserve our support.

Comment by Petrea McConvey

if the seals ever became endangered the people in the province would be the first to call a stop to the hunt. until then its a sustainable hunt and we should use it as such. no difference then any other industry that involves the killing of animals.

Comment by wayne

Good exchange. However, there’s not even a first name to indicate who posted the original piece. If we didn’t know Ian Hussey is the “sysop” on this blog, we wouldn’t know where this came from. There’s no where to send comments like this either that are “off topic”. Creating an online “community” like this is great, but a community needs names and faces to communicate.

Bob Thomson

Comment by Bob

Thanks for the balanced view on the Newfoundland seal hunt. It is a complicated issue, but I believe that being able to make a living from the natural resources in your own region are an important part of a sustainable lifestyle, as long as the industry is managed carefully and with respect. There may be aspects of the seal hunt that should be improved, but labelling Newfoundlanders as barbaric for killing seals is hypocritical, especially in a society that has built its wealth on the exploitation of people, animals and nature. We are all a part of it daily in everything we buy, eat and do and pointing fingers and promoting negative stereotypes does much more harm than good. I feel that this is the kind of issue that highlights the difference between rural and urban environmentalism. I come from a small town where people generally live a simpler lifestyle – less material goods and more self-sufficiency. There is often a deeper connection and respect for nature that is not always inherent in an urban culture – and this sometimes includes the killing of animals. I would love for both sides of the seal hunt to come together for a real conversation with wide open minds – I think they could learn a lot from each other.

Comment by Katie Temple

Thanks for this! I too, am a vegetarian and who finds this massive, multi-million dollar anti-seal hunt campaign highly problematic. There is little understanding of class dynamics in this debate, and little recognition of how the campaign itself is built on privilege. The millions of dollars poured into this campaign come from the excess wealth of those people who earn enough to sustain themselves, and then some. Further, many, if not most, of these protesters are undoubtedly wealthy enough to have the luxury of choosing their sources of sustenance. Who are they, then, to tell people of Newfoundland, who live in the poorest province in Canada, how to live, and where to find their livelihood? And, even worse, who are they to condemn and villanize Newfoundlanders? Newsflash: morality ain’t cheap, and neither is choice.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s “Get angry for the right reasons” marketing campaign (and yes, it is indeed “marketing”), is crafty and seductive. As much as I dislike building a hierarchy of causes, I can’t help but consider how valuable such an advertising campaign would be if it were directed towards more valid issues (the genocide in Darfur, to name but one example). And I’m not the only one who feels this way. The other day I was at a bus stop, and noticed that one of the infamous “Get angry for the right reasons” posters had been modified: where once the poster had read “250,000 baby seals,” someone had taken the liberty of crossing out “seals” to replace it with the word “Africans.”

Let’s indeed get angry for the right reason: the fact that this campaign is getting more attention than more pressing and valid causes: poverty (the underlying reason for the seal hunt, as Ian so astutely noted), genocide, war, and the list goes on…..

Comment by Orla Adams

Hello Ian,
I have no idea if you will see this or not, but I figured I would give it a shot.
My name is Stacey, and I’m currently attending my 2nd year of post secondary at Memorial University in ST. John’s, NL. I am currently writing a paper for my sociology class on “the social causes for suppose or opposition of environmental and animal ethics groups”. I was wondering if you would mind if I quoted you in my paper?

Comment by Stacey

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