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#1
Old 08-04-2007, 02:30 AM
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What's the origin of "club a baby seal"

I've seen this term used, apparently to describe someone heartless. Is there any particular story behind it, because I can't imagine that anyone has actually clubbed a baby seal before, except maybe Eskimos who intend to eat it.
#2
Old 08-04-2007, 02:43 AM
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Actually, clubbing is a common method wherever seals are hunted, and this goes well beyond Eskimos (or the more acceptable term; Inuit). Hunting "whitecoats" (i.e. young harp seals that still have their protective white fur) was banned in Canada in 1987 but by then enough video footage existed to permanently burn the image into the public perception. Older harp seals, and seals generally, are still taken in large numbers (check out the Newfoundland annual hunt) and using a club is a lot cheaper than using a rifle.
#3
Old 08-04-2007, 02:47 AM
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Video not for the squeamish


#4
Old 08-04-2007, 02:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mosier
I've seen this term used, apparently to describe someone heartless. Is there any particular story behind it, because I can't imagine that anyone has actually clubbed a baby seal before, except maybe Eskimos who intend to eat it.

Well according to this page over 80,000 baby seals were clubbed to death in Namibia in 2006.
#5
Old 08-04-2007, 02:57 AM
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Along with whale hunting, this used to be one of the big environmental and animal cruelty issues, but other Big Deals have overshadowed it somewhat.

I think it may also be less widespread than it used to be, which is another reason you don't hear about it much anymore.
#6
Old 08-04-2007, 03:04 AM
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And the phrase entered common usage during the several years prior to the hunting prohibitions. Since, as with many mammals, colonies of seals tend to give birth in the same month, at a certain point, the number of white-furred baby seals would hit a "harvestable" number and large hunts would be organized. At some point, this came to the attention of people who were outraged by the hunts and for several years there was a lot of excitement about people attempting to stop the hunts in very public ways, recording as much of it as possible on film.

Since seals are not particularly frightened of humans, (who walk among them rather than running at them as wolves might), a baby seal hunt presents a graphic view of what appears to be wanton cruelty as the sealers walk among the seals simply clubbing the babies to death. (Clubbing does not mar the hide as a knife, spear, or bullet would do.)

One result was a series of posters, (one more famous than the rest), that adorned the halls of every campus dorm, with a large-eyed, soulful looking baby seal staring into the camera.
#7
Old 08-04-2007, 05:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers
Actually, clubbing is a common method wherever seals are hunted, and this goes well beyond Eskimos (or the more acceptable term; Inuit). Hunting "whitecoats" (i.e. young harp seals that still have their protective white fur) was banned in Canada in 1987 but by then enough video footage existed to permanently burn the image into the public perception. Older harp seals, and seals generally, are still taken in large numbers (check out the Newfoundland annual hunt) and using a club is a lot cheaper than using a rifle.
/aside

I thought "Inuit" was no better a term than "Eskimo", as there are lots of hyperborean humans who aren't Inuit and resent being lumped in with those who are?
#8
Old 08-04-2007, 08:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomndebb
One result was a series of posters, (one more famous than the rest), that adorned the halls of every campus dorm, with a large-eyed, soulful looking baby seal staring into the camera.
Baby harp seal
#9
Old 08-04-2007, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomndebb
Since seals are not particularly frightened of humans, (who walk among them rather than running at them as wolves might), a baby seal hunt presents a graphic view of what appears to be wanton cruelty as the sealers walk among the seals simply clubbing the babies to death. (Clubbing does not mar the hide as a knife, spear, or bullet would do.)
I think one of the issues that made the seal hunt so controversial worldwide is that the animals being killed are a) extremely cute and b) inherently helpless.

Cute and helpless, combined with a repulsive method of dispatch--it's a nightmare.

Personally, I would really prefer Canada did not conduct these hunts, but if the animals in question were less appealing and didn't hit the "aww..." reflex, I wonder if the issue would have become so globally notorious?
#10
Old 08-04-2007, 11:44 AM
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A baby seal walks into a bar....

Bartendender says, "What'll you have."

"Anything but a Canadian Club."








Well someone had to say it.
#11
Old 08-04-2007, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
I think one of the issues that made the seal hunt so controversial worldwide is that the animals being killed are a) extremely cute and b) inherently helpless.
There was also the issue that they were being killed for their fur, a luxury product that people wanted rather than needed.
#12
Old 08-04-2007, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malacandra
/aside

I thought "Inuit" was no better a term than "Eskimo", as there are lots of hyperborean humans who aren't Inuit and resent being lumped in with those who are?
Inuit tends to be the word preferred to the East while Eskimo identifies a separate ethnic group on the far West. By the accident of European invasion plus geography, Eskimo tends to be considered an insult throughout most of Canada. There are Inuit in Alaska, but the larger number of indigenes in Alaska use the word Eskimo. There are also several false etymologies purporting to "show" why Eskimo is an insult, although they are pretty far off the mark.

Mostly it comes down to the typical human situation of one group lumping a lot of other groups together as if they were one, then sticking a label on them. (As when Brits and Aussies referred to citizens of Georgia or Alabama as "Yanks" during WWII or when guys from the States called Scots or Welsh "English.") When the lumpers/labelers have political power, the labeled find it insulting and when the labeled begin to assert their own political power, the labels become bones of contention.

Last edited by tomndebb; 08-04-2007 at 01:52 PM. Reason: completed analogy
#13
Old 08-04-2007, 02:01 PM
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I can't resist.
#14
Old 08-04-2007, 02:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigene
A baby seal walks into a bar....

Bartendender says, "What'll you have."

"Anything but a Canadian Club."








Well someone had to say it.
I can't believe I've never heard that. That's gold.
#15
Old 08-04-2007, 09:21 PM
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As others have said, the clubbing is the traditional method of "harvesting" fur seals.

As an example, here are the lyrics to a traditional song about it: Ferryland Sealer.
#16
Old 08-04-2007, 09:36 PM
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Others have covered all of this already but, to add emphasis to things, seal clubbing is real and it got picked up literally as an animal rights poster child in the 80's - early 90's and all youngish people at the time were exposed to it. It wasn't obscure at all and some of the backlash accused animal rights groups of exploiting only the cute animals to further their cause.
#17
Old 08-05-2007, 11:59 AM
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I remember back in the early nineties when the animal right activists where all up in arms about seal hunting and whaling here in norway. The results - a marked decline in seal hunting with thousands of seals starving to death along the beaches due to lack of food, after consuming a large proportion of the fish in coastal waters. Not a pretty sight at all...

So yeah, clubbing cute little baby seals looks bad, but the alternative is much worse. Watching them starve to death almost on your front porch. At least the rules where changed somewhat, so seal cubs are no longer hunted, they get at least a year or so of living before the hunters go after them. And the methods has been changed somewhat, but clubbing remain the most effective and humane (believe it or not) method.
#18
Old 08-05-2007, 03:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abel29a
I remember back in the early nineties when the animal right activists where all up in arms about seal hunting and whaling here in norway. The results - a marked decline in seal hunting with thousands of seals starving to death along the beaches due to lack of food, after consuming a large proportion of the fish in coastal waters. Not a pretty sight at all...
I hate to do this, but cite that this is a natural occurrence and not due to human-related fishery depletion?
#19
Old 08-05-2007, 03:52 PM
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One of the most blackly humorous things I ever saw was a short informational film that had been produced by some Canadian government agency or other, probably back in the 1970s or thereabouts, quite obviously before the baby harp seal slaughter had achieved any widespread notoriety among animal rights groups. Maybe it was actually that film that initially called attention to the practice, I don't know. As I recall, the film was evidently intended to lure business to Canada by pointing out the vast wealth of natural resources that was just lying around, in this case right out on the ice.

So the film depicted all these loving shots of adorable harp seal pups, looking up at the camera with their big moony eyes, all fuzzy and cuddly in the snow. Then a greasy-looking guy in a parka would step into shot, bludgeon it to death with a baseball bat, then immediately flip it over and start skinning it. Then there were all these shots of big piles of steaming, freshly bleeding pelts being stacked up on an icebreaker, with all these flensed baby seal carcasses lying around, as the narrator droned on about Canada's rich untapped bounty.

All this was supposed to encourage people to come to Canada. Honestly, how oblivious can you get?
#20
Old 08-06-2007, 04:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by groman
I hate to do this, but cite that this is a natural occurrence and not due to human-related fishery depletion?
Oh, I'm sure its related to the fact that we're over-fishing (is that even a possible word combination in English?). Therefore hunting seals is necescary if we want to continue fishing and avoid similar incidents.
#21
Old 08-06-2007, 09:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abel29a
Oh, I'm sure its related to the fact that we're over-fishing (is that even a possible word combination in English?). Therefore hunting seals is necescary if we want to continue fishing and avoid similar incidents.
So the choice is to club baby seals or club baby fishermen? Hmm...
#22
Old 08-06-2007, 10:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by groman
So the choice is to club baby seals or club baby fishermen? Hmm...
Obviously we should club baby fishermen. Anyone who would fish for babies needs to be stopped immediately. The hooks damage the delicate cheek meat. Everybody knows babies should be harvested with gillnets.
#23
Old 08-06-2007, 04:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by groman
So the choice is to club baby seals or club baby fishermen? Hmm...
Either is fine by me - they both taste good with Worcestershire sauce....
#24
Old 08-06-2007, 09:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty
Others have covered all of this already but, to add emphasis to things, seal clubbing is real and it got picked up literally as an animal rights poster child in the 80's - early 90's and all youngish people at the time were exposed to it. It wasn't obscure at all and some of the backlash accused animal rights groups of exploiting only the cute animals to further their cause.
Oh back that up a few years. In 1974 I was in the 7th grade. 1st year of Jr. High. We all did a huge year-long unit on Endangered Species. The WWF and other organizations were a hot topic and great resource in those pre-Internet days.

In 1974 the World Wildlife Fund was using images of clubbed baby harp seals to solicit for funds and raise awareness.

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#25
Old 08-07-2007, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abel29a
. . . clubbing remain the most effective and humane (believe it or not) method.
Back when this issue was more in the public view I had heard that clubbing was used so as not to damage the pelts. Hard for me to believe it's the most humane method possible.
#26
Old 08-07-2007, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CookingWithGas
Back when this issue was more in the public view I had heard that clubbing was used so as not to damage the pelts. Hard for me to believe it's the most humane method possible.
I don't think anyone said it was the most humane... They said it was the method that caused the least amount of visual damage to the coat. I have to wonder if some kind of stungun would be more humane (you know, other than the whole stop-killing thing).
#27
Old 08-07-2007, 10:32 AM
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How about asking politely? "Come on, please? We have an entire crate of Members Only jackets to trade, so pelt donors don't get cold. Anybody?"
#28
Old 08-07-2007, 12:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandonR
I don't think anyone said it was the most humane...
Actually I think abel29a said it. Read the quote in my post.
#29
Old 08-07-2007, 01:22 PM
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About the humaneness of the use of clubs to dispatch the baby seals:

For a killing method to be considered humane it should:
  • Be quick, happening so quickly the animal doesn't realize what's going on
  • Be reliably fatal, having a high success rate
  • In some way eliminate, or reduce the animal's fear

For the purposes of fur harvesting, the goal is to kill the seal without damaging the fur, so that the pelt can be cut for maximum utility.

Given that harp seals appartantly have no instinctive fear of humans, I'm not sure that using a tazer would appreciably add to the humaneness of the killing method - the seals are already unafraid, so there's no reason to worry about their panic as the killer gets close.


I'm not going say that clubbing is necessarily the most humane method available, but it does seem to me, based on these assumptions that it's reasonably humane, and effective.

Whether the harvest should go on, at all, is another question altogether, of course. AFAIK harp seal fur isn't one of those rare natural fibers that has some quality that hasn't been matched or exceeded by synthetics. (ISTR, wolf fur is still unique for its ability to pass moist breath without letting it freeze on the fibers, making it highly prized for arctic conditions.)
#30
Old 08-07-2007, 03:04 PM
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I won't swear this is true, but one story that went with this practice is that the hunters didn't necessarily wait until they were sure the baby seal was dead before starting the skinning process.
#31
Old 08-07-2007, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OtakuLoki
I'm not going say that clubbing is necessarily the most humane method available, but it does seem to me, based on these assumptions that it's reasonably humane, and effective.
I am not sure what you are basing your assumptions of it being reasonably humane on. In fact, if you make an analogy of dispatching a human adolescent with a baseball bat or such, I can't imagine it to be quick, reliably fatal from a single blow or eliminating any sort of fear. The humane way of killing any animal without damaging the pelt is a very well placed silenced shot that enters the brain through one of the existing facial orifices.
#32
Old 08-07-2007, 03:53 PM
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Animals get harvested globally for food, and clothing, and oil, other uses too. The seal hunt is a managed effort with quotas and restrictions. It's no worse, and in fact perhaps much more humane than slaughter houses for bovines, chickens, hogs and the like. The seals happen to be cuter. Big deal: get over it.
#33
Old 08-07-2007, 03:54 PM
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groman, I disagree strongly that a baseball bat would be a good comparison for a lethal club - it's too light for proper blunt force trauma. According to this wikipedia link, they average no more than about a kg.

Doing a quick look at the Wikipedia link on sealing, my own estimate of what a seal club might be was way off - I was imagining something like a maul.

Instead the tool used (or weapon if you prefer) is the hakapik.

The number of organizations coming forward to defend the relatively humane nature of the hakapik, for sealing, includes the WWF. They seem to have been the driving force behind the 2005 Independent Veterinarians Working Group(IVWG) Report.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Independent Veterinarians Working Group(IVWG) Report, via linked wikipedia article
While a hakapik strike on the skull of a seal appears brutal, it is humane if it achieves rapid, irreversible loss of consciousness leading to death.

Again, I'm not defending the taking of seals for pelts. It is simply that I can see clubbing as being a humane means of harvesting.
#34
Old 08-07-2007, 05:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaffan
Animals get harvested globally for food, and clothing, and oil, other uses too. The seal hunt is a managed effort with quotas and restrictions. It's no worse, and in fact perhaps much more humane than slaughter houses for bovines, chickens, hogs and the like. The seals happen to be cuter. Big deal: get over it.
My personal moral opposition is twofold -- I am specifically opposed to any kind of slaughter or hunting of carnivorous mammals and I am generally opposed to any large scale human activity. Why do I need to get over it?
#35
Old 08-07-2007, 06:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo
There was also the issue that they were being killed for their fur, a luxury product that people wanted rather than needed.
I know what you mean, and I agree with you, but when you get down to it, what animal products are really "needed"? It's perfectly possible to lead a healthy vegan lifestyle.
#36
Old 08-08-2007, 02:53 AM
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I know what you mean, and I agree with you, but when you get down to it, what animal products are really "needed"? It's perfectly possible to lead a healthy vegan lifestyle.
I don't see where those vegans act so moral. Did you ever consider that they may just really hate plants?
#37
Old 08-08-2007, 03:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnold Winkelried
I know what you mean, and I agree with you, but when you get down to it, what animal products are really "needed"? It's perfectly possible to lead a healthy vegan lifestyle.
Everybody has their own, equally valid, idea of needs. I want air to breathe, but I also need air (because I like to breathe and I want to). You can argue need is a false concept, and one can argue that one needs everything one desires and then some, and you can argue everything in between, but I don't think you're ever going to have any sort of firm reference point to base logical arguments on. It's just a matter of how you feel about needs.
#38
Old 08-08-2007, 07:49 AM
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If anyone has the need or desire to debate the ethics or utility of animal harvests, I would suggest that they open their own thread in Great Debates rather than hijacking this General Question that is only tangentially related.
#39
Old 08-08-2007, 10:01 AM
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I'm not going to offer anything about the right or wrong of this, but I just want to mention that hakapik is not the only weapon used on seals. I have a large seal club outside my office (education use only! ) It's about 5 feet long and pretty heavy - weighs at least 8 pounds. These aren't baseball bats.

They are still one of the options available for hunters in Canada - I don't know the frequency of use of these options, but the choices are listed here: http://slate.com/id/2139026/

Quote:
Federal laws in Canada give a sealer three ways to hunt his prey. He can shoot a seal with a rifle or shotgun—provided it's above a minimum caliber or gauge; he can break its head with a blunt club (like a baseball bat) that must be at least 2 feet long; or he can smash in its brains with something called a hakapik—a 4- or 5-foot wooden pole with a bent, metal spike affixed to the end.
More (somewhat morbid) on the certainty of death:

Quote:
By law, you have to keep clubbing the seal in the forehead until you know for sure that it's dead. Sealers are supposed to "palpate" a pup's skull after they've clubbed it, to feel the caved-in bone beneath the skin and blubber. Or they can perform the "blink reflex" test, which consists of touching the seal's eyeball—if it blinks, you've got to club it again. (Few sealers actually perform these tests, though; some say they can feel the skull collapse as they make contact with their clubs.)
Please don't construe the above as an endorsement of seal hunting by wevets, or any of his subsidiaries or appendages.


On the question that came up earlier about seals vs. fishermen - often very simple ideas are suggested as a zero-sum game about fish. The best documented case of evidence against this occurred with fur seals in South Africa (you can read more about it in Northridge and Hofman, Marine Mammal Interactions with Fisheries, Chapter 5 In: Twiss and Reeves [Eds.] 1999. Conservation and Management of Marine Mammals, Smithsonian Institution Press.) It was widely believed that culling South African fur seals would increase the number of anchovies available for the fishing industry. Instead, the squid population (also prey of the fur seals) increased, and since the squid eat anchovies, the number of anchovies available actually decreased. It's easy to make simple hypotheses about a complicated food web, but the complexity of the food web usually defeats the simple hypothesis.


Regarding the coat of the seals, seal lanugos (baby coats) tend to be much softer then adult coats - I'm not an expert on fabrics, but I can imagine that it's a hard fabric to match.
#40
Old 08-08-2007, 12:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wevets
Regarding the coat of the seals, seal lanugos (baby coats) tend to be much softer then adult coats - I'm not an expert on fabrics, but I can imagine that it's a hard fabric to match.
I'm not an expert on fabrics either, but I'm pretty sure that sealskin isn't fabricated.
#41
Old 08-08-2007, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Mudd
I'm not an expert on fabrics either, but I'm pretty sure that sealskin isn't fabricated.

Sure it is! By state-of-the-art, Von Neumann fiber and tissue manufacturies, found on coastlines all over the world! It's a triumph of bio-engineering!
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