Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Watch them, don't wear them

Photographer and TV celebrity Nigel Barker shoots baby seals the only way they should be shot -- with a camera. Photo courtesy of Nigel Barker.

There's no question that the seal hunt costs the Canadian government much more than what Newfoundland sealers take home in profits. The price tag is in the many millions of dollars.

But the costs that flow from this bloody event aren't just financial.

Canada's reputation on the world stage as a kinder, gentler nation is threatened by the inhumane hunt, an exercise that has inexplicably escaped animal-cruelty legislation. Propping up this dirty business has disastrous consequences on public relations that reverberate the world over.

How can we put a price on our reputation?

The international export markets are banning this commerce in cruelty, closing their ports to seal products. And celebrities are also using their public platforms to have their say.

Heather Mills and former husband Paul McCartney famously took to the ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in March 2006 to witness the slaughter. They also appeared on Larry King Live to debate the issue with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams.

During the same month, actress Brigitte Bardot traveled to Ottawa to protest the hunt, but the prime minister refused to meet with her.

This year, a television star from the popular reality show America's Next Top Model was the signature celebrity name attached to the cause. Nigel Barker, a British-born fashion and portrait photographer, was on the ice during last year's hunt to photograph the carnage. He filmed a documentary there called A Sealed Fate? that illustrates the travesty.

"I personally will not stop nor sleep well until I know we have stopped this horrendous slaughter," Barker said.

Instead of slaughtering the seals, Barker and others say the site should be developed for eco-tourism. With last year's hunt drawing in gross revenues of less than $12 million, it won't be difficult to replace the measly sum that trickles in from 300,000 seals barbarically stripped of their pelts each season. And they aren't hunting the babies to eat. They leave the bloody skinned seals behind on the ice. This year, pelt prices plunged from $33 to a measly $15 each, so it's likely they won't profit at all. In the past, the average fisherman made just $1,100 a season on sealing, only a fraction of his annual income.

No doubt people will pay more to watch them than wear them.

"Every country has its issues, and this is Canada's," said Barker.

Nigel Barker tells the 2009 Genesis Awards audience about the horrific sights he photographed out on the ice during last year's seal hunt. Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of United States.

Nigel has designed a line of merchandise with proceeds going to save seals. To buy, go this HSUS online store.

His documentary A Sealed Fate? will be available for purchase there soon.

Lights, camera, action against cruelty!

Numerous celebrities have opposed Canada's commercial seal hunt, including:

Richard Dean Anderson, Charles Aznavour, Nigel Barker, Kim Basinger, Juliette Binoche, Sir Paul McCartney, Heather Mills, Kasabian, Mick Jagger, George Harrison, Pamela Anderson, Martin Sheen, Mogwai (band), Pierce Brosnan, Paris Hilton, Sara Quin, Loretta Swit, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Rutger Hauer, Brigitte Bardot, John Paul DeJoria, Ed Begley, Jr., Dave Foreman, Farley Mowat, Linda Blair, Berkeley Breathed, Rolf Harris, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jet, The Vines, Hawthorne Heights, Pink, The Darkness, and Good Charlotte.

Heather Mills was on hand at this year's Genesis Awards in Beverly Hills to show her support for seal pups.

I interviewed Nigel Barker at Genesis. The event was dedicated to ending the Canadian seal hunt.

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