Animal-rights group honours senator for bid to end seal hunt
PETA names former Ottawa MP Canadian of the Year for 2012
Senator Mac Harb accepted his PETA “Canadian of the Year” award on Thursday for his efforts pushing legislation in the Senate that would ban the seal hunt.
Harb said he not only opposed the East Coast seal hunt for economic reasons but also because of its “inherent inhumanity.”
PETA spokeswoman Emily Lavender presented the award to Harb in his office on Parliament Hill on Thursday.
During the brief ceremony, she applauded him for his “compassion and perseverance in working to protect seals from being needlessly slaughtered.”
While animal-rights activists support the current bill, Harb is pessimistic about the outcome.
Harb said that he initially opposed the seal hunt for economic reasons; many of Canada’s major trading partners, such as Russia, the United States and the European Union, have made buying seal products from Canada illegal. He said he does not see the economic benefit of supporting an industry that has no markets.
“All of our major trading partners have told us that they are appalled,” he said.
But beyond the economics, Harb said, he witnessed the “inherent inhumanity” of the industry during a tour of the Atlantic provinces.
“I saw with my eyes hundreds and hundreds of bodies scattered all over the ice of Atlantic Canada,” he said.
Harb sponsored Bill S-210 in June 2011 to outlaw hunting seals commercially; the bill is in its second reading in the Senate.
Not everyone sees eye to eye with Harb and PETA. Robert Courtney, a sealer and president of the North of Smokey-Inverness South Fishermen’s Association in Cape Breton, said the seal hunt is “on par with the harvest of any other animals” and is humane.
Many fisherman in Atlantic Canada see it as a way of life, he said.
“I wish the government would stand up to those people (animal-rights activists),” he said, “and let the industry progress as it should.”
Harb said he is in favour of a government buyout of the sealing licences to compensate hunters, but he is not optimistic about the bill.
“I suspect they (the government) will kill it,” he said.
Bill S-210 is not the first time Harb has tried to put a stop to the seal hunt in the Senate.
In 2009, he proposed similar legislation, but no senator would second the bill.
Then, in 2010, Harb reintroduced the legislation. That time the bill was seconded by Conservative Senator Lowell Murray, but it did not make it past the first reading.
Harb said he thinks the government supports the seal hunt because of its popular support in key ridings in Atlantic Canada.