04/28/2011 04:12

Israel’s International Anti-Fur Coalition calls the trade a “moral atrocity,” but the government maintains that the harvest is “sustainable” and “humane.”
Talkbacks (1)

On the pavement outside Tel Aviv’s Canadian Embassy on Wednesday afternoon, a stuffed seal pillow with painted blood running down its face sat amid a circle of yahrtzeit candles, as members of Israel’s International Anti-Fur Coalition lit the candles and read brief words of dedication to the thousands of seals hunted annually in Canada.

“[Canada] defends this moral atrocity by claiming this as tradition,” said Mitzi Ocean, organizer of the event for the past four years and a leader of the Anti-Fur Coalition, a group that among other things, is pushing to get an anti-fur bill drafted by MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) through the Knesset.

Over 50 people showed up for the day’s rally, which Ocean said was taking place in front of Canadian embassies all over the world to combat the hunting of seals in Canada, whose government the Anti-Fur Coalition claims is raising the cap of animals allowed to be skinned each year.

Last year’s cap of 320,000 rose to over 388,200 this year – though only 65,000 were actually hunted last year, according to Ocean.

The Anti-Fur Coalition expressed frustration that the trade is still occurring despite the fact that 90 percent of Canadian taxpayers oppose the hunt and the market for seal fur is contracting, as country after country bans the trade – including the European Union, the United States and Mexico, Ocean said.

In addition to members of the Anti-Fur Coalition – and a few of their small children dressed as baby seals – participants in the rally also included members of the group Anonymous for Animal Rights and a few representatives from the new haredi animal rights organization Compassion.

“Canada is wasting huge amount of public funds defending this barbaric tradition,” Ocean told The Jerusalem Post, noting that this year’s seal-hunting season began a few weeks ago.

The coalition hopes that Canada’s Green Party, which denounces the trade, will advance in the country’s May 2 elections.

But according to the Canadian government, public funds are not being “wasted” as Ocean claimed – rather, the seasonal trade provides employment for up to 6,000 people each year and brought in approximately $10 million from seal product exports in 2008, the government said.

“The Canadian seal harvest is sustainable,” the Canadian government responded in a statement.

“In fact, the Atlantic harp seal population is healthy and abundant; it is currently estimated at approximately 9 million animals, more than four times what it was in the 1970s. The harp seal population can easily support a regulated and responsible harvest such as Canada’s; there is no conservation reason to end the harvest.”

Meanwhile, in front of the Tel Aviv embassy, Ocean held up photos of bloody seal cubs, with their mothers sitting beside them after their deaths, explaining that baby seal fur is viewed as more valuable than adult fur, and that seals are “actually one of the only mammals that cry.”

But the Canadian government maintained that its “seal harvest is guided by rigorous animal welfare principles [that] are based on recommendations from the Independent Veterinarian Working Group and internationally recognized by most independent observers.

“Enforcement of the regulations is thorough and comprehensive, specifically ensuring adherence to catch requirements, license conditions, and humane harvesting practices. Penalties are tough and may include court-imposed fines, and orders to forfeit catches, gear, boats and licenses,” the statement said.

“For Canada, sealing is about more than fur. It is a way of life for thousands of families and an industry that values the full use of the animal.”