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Where innocence begins and ends

Alan Braunholtz
Vail CO, Colorado

It’s hard not to feel a moment of schadenfreude (joy at another’s misfortune) at the news of sealing boats trapped in the pack ice in Canada. While it’s easier to sympathize with cute furry seals than the un-cute and hirsute sealers, the Humane Society expressed concern for the sealers on the trapped boats even while wishing they weren’t there in the first place.

Clubbing baby seals looks to be an example of stubbornness and political pandering to a vocal group. It provides less than one-half of 1 percent of that region’s economy and costs the Canadian taxpayer. The Coast Guard uses its icebreakers for search and rescue, as well as opening channels to the sealing grounds. There’s government marketing for seal products, subsidized processing plants and the diplomatic costs of repairing Canada’s black eye every springtime. Keep boycotting Canadian sea food.

It’s a gruesome spectacle watching month-old seals getting clobbered with a hooked club and then dragged bleeding across the white ice. Some are skinned alive.



There’s film of this and too many sealers don’t follow the regulations designed to prevent excessive suffering. Veterinarians from other countries estimated from skull damage (or lack of) that 42 percent of seals were skinned while conscious.

Of course the Canadian Department of Fisheries disputes this, but any studies they do are done with the hunters who are naturally on their best behavior while teacher is present. The Department of Fisheries focus on keeping independent observers away. It’s easier to ignore inconvenient evidence if there’s no film of it happening.

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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



The hunt kills more than 350,000 cubs a year, around one-third of all born. With global warming melting the ice it’s a double whammy that threatens their long-term survival. Canadian fisheries don’t have a great record on sustainability. The collapse of the cod banks is one of mankind’s bigger resource blunders.

Why not have sympathy for the fisherman trying to feed his family? Simply put it’s supplemental income (less than 2 percent) for an industry that makes more than ever fishing now for shrimp, crab and lobster. All this suffering and threat of extinction so someone can buy a few more advertised and created needs ” greed, really. The skins make coats, handbags, etc. for Gucci, Prada and Versace. Worth giving these brands a miss next time out shopping for some created need.

There’s a strange logic behind our actions. The bad publicity of pure white seal pups ” less than two weeks old ” being splattered across the ice floes in the ’70s resulted in Canadian authorities banning the killing of these “whitecaps” while allowing the killing of any cub that’s molted and older than 12-14 days. These seals can’t swim until five weeks old, so they are sitting ducks. Sort of like a murderous band of brigands saying, “OK, we won’t kill any more babes in arms but toddlers are still fair game.” What’s the point in drawing such an artificial line?



Interestingly, sheer gruesomeness affected the drawing of illogical lines in the law in other areas recently. Intact dilation and extraction abortions are gruesome and this looked to be the rationale behind the Supreme Court overturning two previous late-term abortion decisions. The unpleasantness of the procedure overrode the “best interests of mother’s health” provision. The supposed humility of judges took a back seat ” they now know more about medicine than doctors. It’s easier for them because they can ignore medical facts. Doctors don’t have that luxury when evaluating hazards and outcomes with a real individual.

Questions always cut both ways. Why care so much for a fetus or embryo and ignore the well-being of 2-, 4- and 6-year olds? How can you draw that line? Is a 6-year old less innocent?

Why not support social and environmental programs that protect children’s health and opportunity?

Also, why campaign for children’s health and ignore the fetus? What’s the line between a child, a fetus and an embryo? What about the yet to be conceived and born; are we protecting their health and well-being? A polluted cesspool of a world in conflict would say no.

Rights, if any, of sentient beings, relative pain and suffering aren’t easy to discuss let alone solve. I understand the passion on both sides of the abortion debate and feel it only can be resolved by focusing on the common ground of reducing suffering. Birth control, adoption, social programs and fewer, but unfortunately still some abortions, will all be part of an answer.

Compared to this sealing is easy. We don’t need their skins, we can make do without the money, it’s unsustainable, the cubs are independent individuals and the mothers want them. Where’s the debate?

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily. E-mail comments to editor@vaildaily.com.


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