Sunday, February 5, 2012

Victory for Some, for Now. Not So Much for Others

"Part of our history is also whaling, for example, and the day came when the whaling industry stopped," he said. "Now, is that day coming with the seal hunt? It just may be." – Ryan Cleary, MP, St. John's South-Mount Pearl in a statement to the CBC last week

This was all it took for some animal rights groups to declare a “victory” for the animals.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) praised Cleary’s remarks on their website (their last "victory" for the animals was negotiating with KFC Canada to gas their chickens to death rather than slit their throats and boil their bodies while still alive), and Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society wrote that the Canadian seal hunt is dead: 

“The Canadian seal slaughter is commercially dead and it will have no place in the 21st Century. This anachronistic, barbaric enterprise is being tossed into the dustbin of history where it belongs. Finally after a lifetime of struggle to end it, this obscene embarrassment is for all intents and purposes – dead.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think butchering animals because you think their skin looks better on you than on the animals is akin to raping someone because it makes you feel sexy, but for animal protection groups to say the slaughter is over, or dead, is simply not true.

For the record, the Canadian government has made no official announcement that the seal slaughter – it shouldn’t really be called a hunt as all the victims are just lying around waiting to be bludgeoned to death – has been shelved, and Cleary has stated emphatically that he and his party, the NDP, support the killing of seals for commercial purposes, with Clearly sporting a seal-skin vest recently to prove it.

According to Cleary, last year’s “hunt” generated only a million dollars in revenue, with approximately 38,000 seals being killed (the quota set by Fisheries Minister Gail Shea was actually 400,000) leading the MP to wonder aloud if it was economically viable to continue it.

But let’s pretend for a moment that the seal hunt has actually been nixed. Would this really be a victory for the animals? Of course, for the actual seals not having their brains bashed in, it’s certainly much better than the alternative. But for the 53 billion other animals (not including sea life) being slaughtered for food each year because we like the way they taste, the victory would at best be bittersweet.

And because the “victory” was the result of a declining economy, rather than an increase in awareness and respect for the animals’ feelings, interests and the simple right to life, all could change overnight if it suddenly became propitious to do so again.

As long as we view other animals as commodities, grocery store items and things to serve our own ends, or things to be eliminated because they get in our way, there will be no victory for any of them.