Date: May 04, 2010
Author: Evan Vickers
Non-vegetarians who oppose the seal hunt, while usually hypnotized by animal rights and anti-sealing propaganda, might fail to recognize the process by which the meat they consider "humane" to eat ended up on their plate. It's been said before, and it stands true today: people want to separate themselves from the violence. The modern supermarket shopper doesn't waste time considering the conditions of the chicken that will be the star of tonight's dinner. They don't want to know if the pig felt pain before being processed and ending up as bacon in the frying pan. Ground beef doesn't represent "cow" to them, it represents hamburgers. People who oppose the seal hunt, while continuing to eat commercially slaughtered meat are not only ignorant, but tremendously separated from the kill, that undesirable act that led to the end result, the finished product, which is probably on their grocery list.

The reason that consumers can tune out the violence and remove themselves from the bloody mess that is commercial animal slaughter is simple. Everyday people are aware that slaughterhouses adhere to a code passed and set out by the federal government to ensure that the animal is put to death in a humane manner. They know that regulations exist inside these abattoirs to guarantee a "good death" for the animals in question. The whole topic usually doesn't go beyond that for them. Slaughterhouses don't have glass walls for a reason, and they accept that. What they don't realize is that the animals that make up the meat products they regularly consume arguably endure more suffering than any seal on the ice floes. Is commercial slaughter inhumane? It depends on who you ask. Commercial slaughterhouses have been rather shielded in terms of media coverage, and the only footage the average person sees is tear-jerking images of cruelty towards the animal by a minority of abattoir workers unwilling to respect the rules and the animals. Similarly, any footage obtained from the Canadian seal hunt is nitpicked, spliced together, and falsely presented as a killing ground of cruelty.

So why do people continue to eat beef, swine, poultry, and other meat while mustering the gall to protest the seal hunt? It is because they are uninformed and misguided. I will now outline a few practices of commercial slaughterhouses compared with the regulations and practices of Canadian sealers.

Animals need to get to the slaughterhouse before meeting their fate. Unfortunately, many of the animals endure unavoidable stresses on the wait and journey to slaughter. Fowl are crowded into cages, unruly or stationary steer and swine are shocked electrically to facilitate order and progressive movement through the abattoir. The crowding alone can cause stress to the animal. Then there are the variety of stunning methods employed by workers to ensure the animal is unconscious or stunned enough for the bleeding process. The most popular device to stun the animal is the captive bolt pistol. The animal, sheep, swine, goat, calve, cattle, horses, or mule, is led into a device which locks and positions the head to ensure that the animal is immobile prior to stunning. The captive bolt is then positioned on a specific area of the head and applied. The device penetrates the skull and enters the cranium causing catastrophic damage to the brain. The animal is then considered unconscious and is fit to be bled. The animal does not die as a direct result of the captive bolt, it dies as a result of the following bleeding. All animals slaughtered in commercial abattoirs ultimately die by exsanguination, which can last as long as 5-10 minutes. The skulls of the animals are too large to be crushed, so there is no palpation of the skull to ensure unconsciousness. There is also no blinking reflex test performed, mainly because the animal most assuredly will blink if the eye is touched until well after exsanguination. The captive bolt pistol is also just that, a pistol. It requires aim, technique, finesse, and proper training to utilize effectively on every animal.

Compare this with the open abattoir that is the commercial seal hunt. Seals are in their natural habitat prior to being killed. They are not crowded into cages, trapped, or transported. They are simply on the ice and in their natural environment as they always are. Sealers come to the seal, and not the other way around. The animals are under no visible stress. In fact, most seals are completely docile as they are used to being predators of the ice and ocean, not prey. The harp seal's skull is smaller and thinner than any cattle or pig or other livestock, and therefore easily crushed. High velocity bullets and rifles in the hands of an experienced sealer can quickly deliver a shot that causes more damage to the seal's skull (regardless of age) and brain matter than a captive bolt pistol on livestock. The humaneness of the hunt is exemplified even more so by usage of the hakapik. The hakapik is a fail safe weapon for killing seals, and was designed specifically as such. Seals less than one year old (which in turn have considerably thinner, weaker skulls) are rendered unconscious or "stunned" by a single blow. Multiple blows are often administered to completely destroy the skull, cerebrum, cerebellum, and sever the brain stem ensuring death before exsanguination, something a captive bolt cannot and does not do. Seals are bled, but the animal is undoubtedly dead before the process begins. It can then be argued that seals are slaughtered quicker and more effectively than livestock in commercial slaughterhouses. The skull and contents destroyed and palpated to verify that sufficient damage has been inflicted, the eye is touched to ensure that not even involuntary reflexes and/or electricity is active in the body, and they are bled for a minimum of one minute before being pelted. By comparison with commercial slaughter, the process is about as humane as any type of slaughter gets.

So why the public outcry and protest against such a humane slaughter? It is based entirely on emotion and cultural imperialism. You can see the slaughter clearly because it takes place in the open and on a white surface, making blood appear much more gruesome. The tools that are used in the hunt are not conventional to the layperson, as many people do not even know what a hakapik is. The pelting and processing takes place in nature, and is not enclosed in walls meant to separate the general public from the kill. These factors combined with the mass propaganda efforts of animal rights groups who deceptively show spliced and altered video, images of the not-hunted whitecoat harp seal and blueback hooded seal, and the positively racist hate campaign perpetrated upon the maritime Canadians who participate in the hunt lead the public to believe that the practice is barbaric. The fact is, it is no more barbaric, and arguably less barbaric than the methods of slaughter that put the meat you regularly consume into those nice, clean, pretty packages at the supermarket. To separate oneself from the kill, from the violence, the blood, the mess, the gruesome raw humanity of it all, is to lie to oneself. Convincing yourself that the leather on your back or the meat you consume came from animals that were slaughtered "acceptably," and that the seal hunt is altogether different is essentially a lie. It is the wool pulled over the eyes of the everyday consumer that has lead to the seal hunt being viewed in such a derogatory way. A quote from Dr. Keith Rondald, Dean of the College of Biological Science at the University of Guelph further outlines the staggering humaneness of the hunt:
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