Date: April 01, 2010
Author: Evan Vickers
The Canadian Commercial Seal Hunt has been subject to scrutiny and strong, often invasive and violent opposition since it gained international notoriety in the 1960s after television stations began to broadcast documentaries on the hunt. Since that time, through the Brigitte Bardot hysteria in the 70s to the more recent "interventions" by Sir Paul McCartney, the sealers have been immediately associated with "clubbing." The propaganda spread through eco-terrorist hate campaigns combined with the advent of YouTube and other media outlets has led almost all anti-sealers to believe that basically every seal hunter kills the seal with a club or hakapik. Not only is this association untrue, but it is also not well understood by the anti side of the argument.

As more information about the hunt has become available, it has been confirmed through reputable sources (the DFO being one of them) that 90% of the hunt is carried out with firearms. While this fact hasn't jarred the antis, there is much about the hakapik that has failed to be properly addressed and understood by both sides of the sealing argument. Many sealing supporters, when questioned about the usage of the hakapik, automatically refer to the firearms fact noted above, while usually giving the hakapik no defense. In the interview with Danny Williams and the McCartneys on Larry King, even the premier jumped directly to the firearms defense when questioned about the humaneness of the hakapik. The fact is, the hakapik has gotten a lot of negative attention by the media, while in reality it may be even more humane than firearms.

Firstly, the hakapik must be properly identified as a hunting tool and not an improvised or rudimentary "club." Much of the anti debate has encircled the hakapik and many have compared the tool to a baseball bat or an ax handle. The reality is that hakapiks are just as regulated as firearms used in the hunt. The regulations are actually more strict for the hakapik because research on the killing methods have suggested very specific dimensions to achieve a humane kill. A regulation Canadian hakapik must be equipped with a metal ferrule on the top that weighs no less than 12 ounces consisting of a hammerhead not more than 1.3 centimeters on one side and a bent spike no longer 14 centimeters on the other. The handle must be of solid wood and no shorter than 105 centimeters or longer than 153 centimeters. The handle must also be no less than 3 centimeters and no more than 5.1 centimeters in diameter. As you can see, the Canadian government is very serious and specific about the exact dimensions of any hakapik to be used in the annual hunt. The hakapik, a device of Norwegian design, is just as much a hunting tool as bow and arrow, and deserves to be recognized as such.

Secondly, the hakapik has been proven a humane tool by the Canadian Medical Veterinary Association through a study in 2002. While it may not look as humane as a firearm, it can be argued that the hakapik surpasses the firearm in humaneness when hunting seals. Firearms are difficult to master and require a steady aim on moving creatures at a distance. No matter how skilled a marksman the sealer may be, there is always a margin for error and any sealer who has used a gun in the hunt will admit to missing their mark a few times a year. This could cause unwanted suffering in the time it takes to deliver a successful kill shot to the cranium of the seal, not to mention the skill and time it takes to compensate for the floating and swelling of the vessel under the waves and hitting against the ice. The hakapik is a fail safe weapon for killing seals. The seal is harvested up close, and the sealer can immediately render the animal irreversibly unconscious with very little margin for error. Every hit landed by the hakapik is a guaranteed headshot, and multiple blows can be administered in a matter of a few seconds to ensure than the seal is in no danger of being conscious for the bleeding and skinning process. Hakapiks also do minimal damage to the pelt compared with a firearm, thereby increasing the value of that pelt. This makes the hunt more profitable, with a greater return for the industry. Each sealer also must pass a hakapik test before using one in the hunt and must complete the test again every 2 years as required by the DFO.

I would personally enjoy seeing the hakapik more fully integrated into the hunt and continue to be utilized in the Gulf of St. Lawrence part of the hunt in the humane fashion for which it was designed. Sealers do not "bludgeon the seals to death" as Paul Watson would have you believe. This implies that there is an inhumane amount of time to death when using the hakapik, while the reality is that the seal is irreversibly unconscious after the first or second blow...approximately 3-5 seconds to death. They are also only used on younger pups that have a softer skull than an adult seal, and laws state that no seal over 1 year old will be struck with a hakapik unless it has already been shot with a gun. This further strengthens the humaneness of the tool. The hakapik continues to be used in the hunt because it has proven to be an accurate and efficient way to render seals unconscious, and comparing the instrument to a barbaric "club" that a caveman might have used is just ridiculous and only further demonstrates the inability of these eco organizations to learn about what they protest against.

Evan Vickers
March 22, 2010
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