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February 27, 2009

February 27, 2009

The Barry Group and Canada's Seal Hunt

Exposing the Canadian seal hunt/seafood industry connection

The Humane Society of the United States

Sealers Clubbing Hay Island

The HSUS

The connection between the Canadian seafood industry and the commercial seal slaughter has never been so clear.

A few weeks ago, it looked like the grey seal hunt—which takes place just before the much larger harp seal hunt—would end without any pups being killed. It appeared there were no buyers for seal skins.

The ProtectSeals team, in Canada to document the hunt, was elated by reports that the hunt wouldn’t continue. Instead of witnessing the carnage it had expected to see, the team was grateful to watch mothers nursing their babies still covered in white fur, and slightly older seal pups sleeping and playing in groups.

Reviving a dead hunt

Then Newfoundland furrier NuTan stepped in. NuTan let it be known that it would purchase 200 grey seal pelts to provide “samples” in an attempt to explore market interest in grey seal skins.
 
So the sealers set out, and 200 pups were beaten to death with bats—in secrecy and with the approval of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Seafood-seal hunt connection

NuTan is part of The Barry Group, a major Newfoundland seafood processing company that makes the vast majority of its income from exporting seafood.  Through NuTan, The Barry Group is also a player in the sealing industry: year after year, the NuTan facility tans skins from the seal hunt.

The seafood industry’s dogged support of the seal hunt doesn’t make economic sense. The money brought in by the hunt is comparatively negligible. The total value of Canada’s seafood exports to just the U.S. was $2.4 billion (Canadian) in 2008; the same year, the hunt brought in less than $7 million (Canadian) selling seal skins to the fur industry.

And the hunt has a price: Since The HSUS’s 2005 call for a boycott of Canadian seafood products until the hunt ended, the value of snow crab exports to the U.S. alone has dropped by $750 million (Canadian). It’s time for Canada’s fisherman to ask if their industry leaders aren’t depleting their livelihood by promoting the seal hunt. 

Cover-up?

An official from Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans took pains to convince the ProtectSeals team that NuTan has no connection to The Barry Group and in an email asked that we remove a website reference to the Barry Group's involvement with the purchase of the 200 seal pelts.

But the truth is that the Barry Group and NuTan share not only members of their boards of directors but also the same mailing address. There is no excuse for the DFO to attempt to protect The Barry Group from being publicly connected with the actions of one of its companies. Rather than working to keep the seal hunt going, NuTan and The Barry Group should be using their influence with the DFO to bring it to an end.

Boycott the seal hunt

The Barry Group is just another example of the fact that the Canadian seafood industry and the Canadian sealing industry are inseparable. As long as consumers support one, they—no matter how inadvertently—support the other. Any individual who opposes the rampant, inexcusable cruelty of the commercial seal hunt, whether the victims are grey or harp seals, should hold the Canadian seafood industry responsible. By refusing to purchase seafood from Canadian companies, consumers can tell Canada’s seafood industry that it must use its influence with fishermen and the DFO to bring an end to its bloody seal hunt. 

The next victims: harp seals

The harp seal hunt will begin in a few weeks. A recent victory in Europe (since this article was first published) shows the world is growing increasingly weary of this annual slaughter.

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