HALIFAX, Nova Scotia––Canadian fisheries minister Gail Shea admitted on the eve of the April 14 opening of the 2014 Atlantic Canada seal hunt that “a trade agreement to sell Canadian seal meat in China announced more than three years ago has been largely thwarted by animal rights activists,” reported Michael MacDonald of Canadian Press.
“Shea announced the deal in January 2011 in Beijing,” MacDonald recalled, “saying that gaining access to the world’s most populous country would breathe new life into an industry crippled that year by a new European ban on seal products. At the time, representatives of the Canadian sealing industry said a cache of seal meat had already been packaged and was ready for shipment to China.”
But the deal between the the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Chinese Administration of Quality Supervision was only a protocol for administering seal product imports, not an actual contract for anyone to buy any.
And the protocol was immediately denounced by a coalition of 42 Chinese animal welfare and wildlife protection societies, headed by Beijing Animal Welfare Association director Qin Xiaona. Thirty of those organizations, active in 14 cities, had already formed a national coalition in opposition to importing seal products.
Said Qin Xiaona, “I am sure Chinese consumers would reject seal products without a moment’s hesitation if they knew the cruelty behind them.”
Added China Small Animal Protection Association founder Lu Di, “‘Do not give to others what you yourself do not want’ is an ancient Chinese proverb. It is insulting for Canada to market these products in China.”
Shea conceded defeat in China two days before Canadian deputy fisheries minister Matthew King visited Beijing for three days, April 16-19, Humane Society International representative Peter Li told ANIMALS 24-7.
“He met at the Canadian Embassy with the Chinese activists,” Li said.
Li provided ANIMALS 24-7 with a prepared statement that the Chinese animal advocates delivered to King.
“We are deeply disappointed,” the delegation told King, “by recent statements made by Gail Shea to Canadian media. She accuses Chinese animal protection groups of ‘spreading misinformation’ because––according to her––seal pups are no longer hunted in Canada. We are well aware that newborn seals are protected in Canada. However, we are also aware that as soon as those newborn seals begin to shed their white coats––at just 12 days of age––they lose that protection and that 98% of the seals killed in the Canadian seal slaughter are pups less than three months of age. We would ask that Gail Shea set the record straight and apologize to the Chinese people.
“We find offensive,” the statement continued, “that the Canadian government wants China to become a dumping ground for products of cruelty that the rest of the world––including Canada––have rejected.
“China may also be known for industries and practices that cause suffering to animals,” the activists acknowledged, “and there is a wildlife-eating culinary subculture here. But animal abuse and wildlife eating do not represent mainstream Chinese culture. Statements that have been made by your sealing industry representatives that, “Chinese people will eat anything,” and thus that China is a good prospect market for seal meat, are highly offensive. Using outdated practices and a culinary subculture to justify seal product trade with China is not only self-serving but morally distasteful.
“We appeal to you to convey to the Canadian fisheries industry that the Chinese people do not welcome seal products; that it is hugely inappropriate for any Canadian to fuel false expectations back in Canada about the Chinese government’s commitment to import seal meat. We would also like to mention,” the statement finished, “that the Chinese people oppose the import of polar bear products from Canada.”
The Canadian Department of Fisheries & Oceans has set the 2014 Atlantic Canada sealing quota at 400,000, expecting 37 vessels to participate, DFO resource manager Patricia Williams told media. About 91,000 seal pelts were landed in 2013, up from 69,000 in 2012, but there are few visible markets for either the pelts or other products made from seal carcasses. The U.S. has prohibited the import of seal products since the Marine Mammal Protection Act took effect in 1972, the European Union prohibited seal product imports in 2009, and Mexico, Russia, and Taiwan have also banned seal product imports.
“Meanwhile,” wrote MacDonald of Canadian Press, “the industry continues to push ahead with a court case in the European Union aimed at overturning a ban on seal products, and the federal government is appealing a recent World Trade Organization decision to uphold the ban. The WTO concluded in November that while the ban undermines fair trade, the restrictions can be justified due to ‘public moral concerns’ for animal welfare.”
(See also “Chinese activists object to Canadian deal to sell seal meat & oil to China,” http://www.animals24-7.org/2011/01/23/chinese-activists-object-to-canadian-deal-to-sell-seal-meat-oil-to-china/.)