Chef Eric Pateman of Edible Canada has been receiving a lot of criticism for the dish he’s serving for Dine Out Vancouver — Newfoundland seal pappardelle. Activist organizations are asking for the marine mammal to be taken off the menu, claiming that seal hunting practices are inhumane and that the dish supports the cruel hunt.
Are the hunts cruel and inhumane? As a certified cries-at-dog-recovery-videos wimp and leaf-eater (vegetarian), of course I believe that the hunts are awful — but that’s not my issue with the controversy. My issue is with the anger and irrationality that many so-called activists seem to have in common.
These sorts of voices seem to be causing a lot of noise, screaming at the restaurant in hopes of getting their way — PETA being a prime example. The animal rights organization staged a demonstration of a costumed seal writhing in a pool of blood in front of the restaurant to express their beliefs about the seal hunt.
It’s true that, while I do disagree with their methods, PETA isn’t unjustified in the anger they feel. In 2008 alone, an estimated 218,000 harp seals were killed with high-powered rifles, shotguns firing slugs, clubs, and hakapiks (traditional hunting tools comprising of long sticks with sharp hooks on either end).
The practices used to kill seals are reportedly more “humane” than others. Yet animal rights advocates claim that many seals are skinned alive, and that working conditions make killing seals quickly very difficult, so many pups suffer greatly during the hunt.
These facts are awful, but the seal hunt is legal, along with many other cruel practices towards animals. The people who follow and work within these laws, business owners and average citizens, aren’t the whole issue — they’re simply byproducts of a problematic system.
Sure, they are perpetuating a bad practice, but don’t we all? We’ve all got smartphones up the wazoo, and we know that every time we break one in a wonderful first world country, a child suffers in a third world country helping make a replacement. We definitely should all be held accountable for our actions, but we’re often so overwhelmed by the power of big business that it can seem impossible to live ethically — so we give in.
This is what many of the voices that cry out seem to be neglecting, and their ignorance is my issue. While the restaurant is definitely enabling an often-cruel practice, attacking it for simply selling the meat is rude, pointless, and does absolutely nothing to protect the seals. The only things that these types of protests seem to accomplish is the destruction of the credibility of actual activists, making their causes look like a joke. The angry and entitled attitudes of these protesters seem to completely halt them from taking a step back and acknowledging the reality of the situation.
If you’re looking to actually make a difference, do the work to make that difference. Organizations like Harpseals are committed to ending seal hunts, and they suggest that you volunteer your time, write letters to those who can help (e.g. government officials, tourist businesses, etc.), and ask your friends and family to join your fight for the cause. Change the world with your actions and not your ignorance.