First Published: The Forge, Vol. 3, No. 7, March 31, 1978
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland – On March 5 a crowd of 5000 people assembled at the port to see off 120 seal hunters to the sound of port bells and sirens. The people of St. John’s came out to show their support for the hunters. The alarmists from Greenpeace who oppose the hunt on so-called “ecological” and “humanitarian” grounds didn’t dare show their faces.
The four boats that left that day took several days to reach their hunting site 200 miles off Saint Anthony, a small village on the northern tip of the Island. There they were joined by two other Canadian [MIA note as in original].
Why are groups like Greenpeace raising such a hue and cry against the hunt? Why has Greenpeace spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past few years, using massive donations sent by millionaires in Western Europe and North America?
One of the sealers spoke to us about the whole affair: “I don’t think they’re crying out because we’re killing seals. What’s the difference with killing a cow, or a pig, or a chicken? But when you kill a seal it’s a wonderful crime... They go over there and tell the millionaires that it’s a crime and they make a fortune on it. They come over and try to stop it. But they don’t really want to stop it. They want it to go on. If it stops, their money is cut off... Then they go and tell the millionaires, ’we’re doing our best.’ But they won’t stop it.”
The hunt is essential for Newfoundland. It is an important complement to the fishing industry, so vital to the people of this province:
1. It enables them to control the number of seals. If the seals were allowed to multiply, they would devastate the cod and turbot banks and ruin commercial fishing.
2. The hunt tops off the income of many of the fishermen. The sealers we met earn just $6000 to $8000 a year from fishing. The hunt helps them make ends meet.
3. The hunt comes in winter, when the ice makes fishing impossible. And Newfoundland is the province hardest hit by unemployment, with an official rate of 17.8% in February – 32,000 are without jobs.
The capitalists say that, all in all, they and the fishermen have interests in common to defend. This is untrue. The seal hunters are viciously exploited. They have to give up 74% of their earnings from the hunt to the capitalist boat-owners. Although the hunt brings sealers about $2000 in one to one and a half months, the money doesn’t come easy. The men have to work up to twenty hours straight, seven days a week, out on the ice, exposed to the biting March winds of the North Atlantic. And they have no union.
There are local Newfoundland politicians who support the hunt, not for the sake of the sealers but for the big boat-owners who make a fortune off it. Frank Moore’s Conservatives spent $160,000 this year on a campaign supporting the hunt, but these same politicians won’t lift a finger to help people cope with the capitalist crisis. As a matter of fact, they’ve just made the burden even heavier. The provincial budget passed March 17 increased the provincial sales tax to 11%, raised taxes on tobacco and also the price of liquor, and will eliminate 500 jobs in the civil service.
The fishermen, sealers and working people of Newfoundland can’t expect these crooks to give them anything. They must continue their fight against them.
Based on information from Forge correspondent