Bill Maher’s Seal of Disapproval

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4 min read

The following is a Canada Day guest post from Bill Maher, the genius behind Politically Incorrect and HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher. Maher offered his wit for an op-ed, originally posted in today’s Daily News, in a humorous protest against a deadly serious issue: Canada’s annual slaughter of tens of thousands of seals—the largest massacre of marine mammals in the world.

Here’s some good news from my friends at PETA, just in time for Canada Day on July 1: Canada’s annual commercial seal slaughter is over—at least for this year—and more than 80 percent of the seals who had been marked for death were spared because hardly anyone wants to wear baby-seal fur anymore. But Canada won’t cancel the massacre outright. Why?

There are a lot of things to admire about our neighbor to the north, but the country’s strange seal phobia is not one of them. Canada is terrified of seals. Baby seals, in particular. I know, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.

Canada’s seal “hunt”—which happens every November to June off Canada’s East Coast—is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet, leaving tens of thousands of animals dead every year. And let’s be clear: The Canadian government may call it a “hunt,” but impaling baby seals in the jaw with hooks, dragging them across the ice, and throwing them into a pile where they choke on their own blood before being skinned isn’t a sport—it’s a massacre. The video of it is like a starter snuff film designed for serial killers.

Opposition around the world is growing. Last year, the U.S. Senate—a group of people who usually can’t agree that the sky is blue—unanimously passed a resolution calling for an immediate end to the annual slaughter. But the Canadian government just keeps putting its fingers in its ears and singing “la, la, la” so that it won’t hear anything it doesn’t like. Or, if it does hear, it responds with all the subtlety and sophistication of a fistfight in the men’s room at a monster-truck rally.

The European Union, for example, recently passed a ban on seal products. So after stomping its feet and jutting out its lower lips for a while, Canada threatened to go tell mom that it’s being picked on. Sorry, did I say “mom”? I meant the World Trade Organization. And as if that weren’t tone-deaf enough, in response to the EU’s ban, Canada’s parliament also pushed—unsuccessfully—to incorporate seal skins into the uniforms of the Canadian Olympic team in a desperate attempt to legitimize the seal slaughter.

When Russia announced a ban on the killing of baby harp seals in that country, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the seal slaughter a “bloody industry that should have been banned long ago.” Shortly thereafter, Canada’s Governor General Michaëlle Jean cut open a seal and chowed down on the animal’s raw heart, burbling inanely, “It’s like sushi.” I’m not making that up.

Note to Canada: When your officials are making Vladimir Putin look like the voice of reason and the U.S. Senate appears to be a model of civility, you’re doing something wrong.

Let’s clear up a couple of myths perpetrated by the Canadian government in defense of the “hunt.” The sealing industry is not a subsistence trade for native peoples. The Inuit—most of whom live in the Arctic, far away from the main seal-killing regions of Newfoundland and Labrador—are responsible for only about 3 percent of the annual seal kill.

Nor is the slaughter important to the Canadian economy. In Newfoundland, where the majority of sealers live, revenues from sealing account for just about 1 percent of the province’s economy. But even if it were more, that’s still no excuse for clubbing babies.

You’d think that officials would have gotten the message that it’s time to stop the slaughter when many sealers sat out this year’s massacre in the face of plunging demand and record-low ice levels. Incredibly, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea instead increased the killing quotas.

In fact, Canada is spending millions of dollars—and despite what you may have heard, Canadian dollars are real money—on desperate efforts to prop up the dying commercial seal slaughter, including rushing Shea to China to try to peddle seal pelts there and posting a $75,000 contract for a “Social Media Reputation and Online Issues Management” advisor to track seal chatter on the Web.

Not long ago, Canada launched a “Keep Exploring” ad campaign to attract tourists. Vacationers may find it hard to have a really good time with all that shooting and beating going on in the background.

Reacting to the tourism campaign, PETA is pushing back with its own campaign, called, “Explore Elsewhere,” encouraging people to leave Canada out of their travel plans until the seal massacre is stopped for good. I’ve never really been one to call for boycotting an entire country, but in the face of such heartless ineptitude, maybe it’s worth considering.

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