An anti-seal-hunt protester holds up a valentine card as she tries to get the attention of Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter during his address at a Canada Games support rally in Halifax, Nova Scotia February 14, 2011.
Credits: REUTERS/Paul Darrow
TORONTO - Politicians and fishermen want animal activists to stop harping on teenagers to persuade them to adopt an anti-seal hunt agenda.
Christ the King Catholic Secondary School in Georgetown, ON, held a three-hour concert Thursday focused on educating students on commercial seal slaughter in Canada. They invited animal rights groups and a councillor from the Green Party.
But no pro-seal hunt advocates showed up.
"This is shocking they would do that - that kind of information being provided from one side and not hearing from the alternative," Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Keith Ashfield said Friday. "Anti-sealing groups have a whole campaign of misinformation. They're not providing the whole story to anyone. They're still using the old photo of the white seal pup being killed and that's been illegal in this country for over 30 years."
This is the second year the school has held one of these concerts organized by a school group called Sonar2Voice, which creates awareness on marine biodiversity.
Mark Knowlton, the teacher overseeing the school group, said he always ensures students research and present both sides of an issue. This is why two weeks prior to the concert, the students held two assemblies - one speaking about pro-sealing and one against.
"We always encourage critical thinking," he said. "A lot of the time it is learning about that marine mammal. That being said, (students who attend the assemblies) have had a chance to make an informed choice whether they want to take part and learn more."
In addition, Knowlton said other politicians who were pro-seal hunt were contacted, but none responded.
The Canadian Sealers Association said educating young minds on only one side of a contentious issue has consequences.
People need to be educated about the exploding harp seal population, the association's executive director Frank Pinhorn said, reaching nine million this year, more than doubling numbers in 2005.
"They're not an endangered species," he said. "The herd today has probably been the largest its been in 200 years.
"Why we need an economical and viable sealing industry is because it derives income for our rural people in 600 isolated villages and it's equally important it maintains equality in the ecosystem, so that all other commercial species can co-exist with the seals," Pinhorn added.
Roughly 400,000 seals are slated for the hunt this year, which runs mid-November to June.
"If you start with seals today, where are you going to tomorrow? You can't single out one species and say this is unacceptable but for every other species, it is," Pinhorn said.
Nick Wright, a campaigner for Humane Society International, spoke at the school concert and said he was under the impression pro-sealer groups were contacted, but didn't respond to the invitation.
Wright said he spoke of several issues surrounding the seal hunt, including urging the federal government to buy off 50% of existing licences so seal hunters give up the practice.
The government should provide east coast communities with more money to make sure ending the hunt wouldn't decimate them financially, he said.