While it can be argued that all hunts for meat are equally horrifying no matter which animal is the target, it can be especially troubling for Canadian meat eaters to enjoy their meal when the animal they're eating is 'cute'. Though that hasn't seemed to stop a group that is currently in the stages of testing whether seals residing off the coast in British Columbia are edible.
No, you didn't hear that wrong, while the hunting of seals and sea lions has been banned for over 40 years, the Pacific Balance Pinnipeds Society (PBPS), is doing just that. The hunt itself is the first one seen in decades.
The reason this hunt is legal regardless of the ban is because the PBPS has been using First Nations hunting rights to execute their hunt. The current plan for the organization is to harvest 30 seals that will have their meat and blubber tested to see if they are fit to be consumed by humans.
While the edibility of the seals is a part of the plan, the main objective for the hunt is to widdle down the ever booming seal population that is plaguing the West Coast fishing industry. If the seals are fit for human consumption, it could result in the start of "a new industry" according to PBPS director and fisherman, Tom Sewid.
While the hunt may be controversial, there's no denying that the growing seal population is a bit of a problem. Ever since the 1970s, the populations of both seals and sea lions have exploded where today the numbers are the highest they've been since the 1800s. This spike in growth has come as a result of the last few decades where not as many Indigenous people have been exercising their hunting rights that typically keep the population under control.
Not only is the swell in population the issue, but the antics of seals have also spurred the hunting decision as right now seals and commercial fisherman off the coast of Parksville, British Columbia are fighting for fish. Since the seals have clued in that the large fishing boats bring in tonnes of herring, they have now begun to infiltrate the fishers' nets to gorge on a meal for themselves.
This has resulted in the seals and sea lions consuming as much as six times the amount of fish that is caught by both the local commercial and sport fisheries, adding up to millions of tonnes of fish that could be sold.
Sewid claims this is one of the core reasons for the hunt explaining to CBC News, "they're not afraid of us. They've habituated themselves to seeing that humans and fishing equates easy access to food, which is not right. The animal kingdom is not supposed to be like that." As of now, the PBPS aims to cut the population of both seals and sea lions in half.
As of now, the harvest is being supervised by the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy to make sure the hunt is technically legal. Meaning that First Nations people have the rights to harvest and manage the hunt for "food and ceremonial purposes."
If the PBPS does find through testing that the meat is ok for humans to consume, it's only the first step in what the organization hopes will result in a hunt that is both sustainable and beneficial to the First Nations community and local fishers.
Source: CBC News