The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #89291   Message #1684379
Posted By: gnu
03-Mar-06 - 11:15 AM
Thread Name: BS: Sir Paul & the seals
Subject: RE: BS: Sir Paul & the seals
This may help a bit... probably not... from CP...

McCartney cooed and spoke softly as he came almost nose to nose with bawling pups on the frozen expanse.

Nearby, worried mother seals peered anxiously from areas of open water, clearly frightened by the men and women who so desperately want to be their saviours.

At one point, a prone Heather McCartney began to pet one of the furry pups, which turned and snapped, narrowly missing her hand. Federal regulations prohibit people from touching marine mammals.

"These are such beautiful animals and in about three weeks from now this whole place will be a sea of red and these pups we are seeing today will be dead just for their fur," a genuinely upset Paul McCartney told reporters on the ice.

"It's something that shouldn't be happening in this day and age."

Jean-Claude Lapierre of the sealers association on Iles de la Madeleine said the hunt will go ahead as planned, despite McCartney and hunt protesters.

"These people don't understand what the hunt means to us," Lapierre said at the local airport where he greeted McCartney but didn't get an opportunity to debate the issue.

"It's an important part of our lives."

The most recent figures suggest the industry, which started in the 1700s, was worth between $15 million and $20 million annually and employed up to 10,000 people, most of them in Newfoundland. Supporters argue that income from the harvest is vital to remote communities with few other economic opportunities.

The McCartneys, longtime animal rights activists, noted the Canadian government had approved a three-year management plan in 2003 that set the total quota for harp seals at 975,000 - a move that prompted renewed outrage among conservation groups.

Phil Jenkins, a spokesman for the federal Fisheries Department, said he took the opportunity to make Ottawa's case directly to McCartney when he spoke with him during a flight into Charlottetown on Wednesday night.

"Sir Paul McCartney said that he had heard that the seal population was declining and there was a conservation issue," Jenkins said.

"In fact, the seal population is at 5.8 million animals and that's about triple what is was in the 1970s."

Jenkins said he was concerned by the McCartneys' decision to pose with the youngest harp seals, known as whitecoats, because hunters have been banned from killing them since 1987.

Under federal rules, harp seals must not be killed until they lose their white fur. That can happen in as little as 12 days, but most of the seals taken are about 25 days old, the Fisheries Department says.

Thursday's protest was organized by the Humane Society of the United States and the British-based group, Respect for Animals.

"This is the biggest thing that has ever happened in the seal campaign," said Rebecca Aldworth, spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States.

"Paul and Heather McCartney are two of the most visible people in the world and they are two of the strongest animal protection people in the world. Them taking a stand for seals today will help us to bring a final end to the commercial seal hunt."

She said the proposed licence buyback program should include compensation for lost income.

"Given that the federal government subsidized the return of the commercial seal hunt (between 1996 and 2001) we think this would be a good investment to see its end," Aldworth said.

Earlier, the McCartneys released a statement describing the hunt as brutal, and they cited a 2001 independent veterinarian report that concluded close to half of the seals killed were likely still conscious when skinned.

The Fisheries Department says it has an independent report that suggests otherwise.

"Sometimes a seal may appear to be moving after it has been killed; however seals have a swimming reflex that is active - even after death," the department says on its website.

"This reflex gives the false impression that the animal is still alive when it is clearly dead."

The department has also insisted Canadians support Ottawa's policies, citing a February 2005 Ipsos-Reid poll that concluded 60 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of a "responsible hunt."