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Make Seal Flipper Pie, Not (Economic) War

May 9, 2009

As a sort of quick postscript to my latest post on the seal hunt, I think it’s worth responding to a suggestion by the CBC’s Michael Hlinka, who writes:

…if the EU chooses to ban Canadian seal products, then Michael Hlinka, at least, will choose to ban European products from his home. And I hope that all Canadians, regardless of what you think about the seal hunt, give the EU legislation just a little bit of thought before making your individual consumption decisions.

Hlinka appears to be calling for at least a limited and informal consumer boycott of European products. I’m as infuriated by the European ban as anybody, but this nevertheless strikes me as an overreaction. Canada and Europe (by which I mean individual European countries, as well as EU institutions) have a complicated, multidimensional, and generally very positive relationship. It would be a mistake to let an irritant like our differences over the seal hunt get blown out of proportion.

I still maintain that we Canadians ought to encourage the sealing industry to develop new markets abroad and to carry out a kind of inverse boycott, which would involve going out of our way to at least experiment with seal products, at home. Perhaps we should call it a girlcott. Aside from fur and leather items, I came across a recipe for a traditional Newfoundland dish, seal flipper pie, that sounds well worth trying. Let such pies grace restaurant menus from sea to shining sea, and let their makings appear in supermarket aisles.

I can confirm from personal experience that girlcotting nations and industries that one feels positively towards is more pleasant and educational than boycotting the annoying ones. As a graduate student in the US, I made a habit of buying alcoholic beverages from countries that did things I approved of. Not every country on Earth was represented at the local liquor store, so the system was decidedly imperfect, but nevertheless it provided my introduction to Greek ouzo, Danish akvavit (I think that was my response to those infamous Mohammed cartoons) and an unusual liqueur or two. Perhaps at least some Canadians from beyond Newfoundland can discover seal flipper pie on the same basis, even if they ultimately have to go a long way east in order to do so.


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One Comment leave one →
  1. marakardasnelson permalink*
    May 10, 2009 8:06 am

    I have to say that I’m against what seems to be the general Canada’s World consensus on this one. I think that it is completely within the EU’s right to boycott Canadian seal exports for a practice that they find “inhumane.” Countries have historically used boycotts, either officially or unofficially, to call attention to practices that they find morally or legally wrong. Most of the world’s boycott of South Africa’s products at the end of apartheid is the most prime example of an economic ban put in place to help change internal government policies. While I’m certainly not suggesting that the Canadian seal hunt is anywhere near as atrocious as the oppression of millions of a country’s citizens, I do think that it is more significant than the force-feeding of geese for foie gras (Hlinka cites the ban as “hypocrisy” if the EU won’t also ban foie gras and veal). While I object to foi gras and veal (excuse me while I take the moral high ground and spout my vegetarianism), these geese and baby cows are raised in farm environments for the sole purpose of becoming meat. Seals, however, are hunted in the wild: after struggling against Arctic waters, depleting fish population for food, and increasing oil spills and other environmental hazards, don’t you think we could cut them a break?

    I pressume that you’ll retaliate by saying something about seals “pulling at the heart strings” more than geese or cows, and this I can’t deny–seals are cute. But I for one am at least a little bit proud to see a government having some sort of moral gut, even if it’s at the expense of a small part of the Canadian economy. Let animal rights and ethics over-rule the economy for once.

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