I’m an environmentalist, not an animal-rights activist. Sometimes the two labels go hand-in-hand; sometimes they clash. Personally, I place a priority on healthy ecosystems (including the survival of whole species in their native habitat) over an individual animal’s right to exist no matter where it may find itself.

So from that vantage point, the fracas over Canada’s annual seal hunt doesn’t seem to me to be an “environmental” issue, if we’re pigeonholing. Seals, as I understand it, are not endangered.

But, trust me, you don’t have to attach any activist label to yourself at all to be revolted and horror-struck by the hunt. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is posting new video footage daily of the mass killing — and, despite the fact that some of it is set to cheesy, melodramatic music, the images of young seals being bludgeoned and skinned are stomach-churning and heart-breaking. And infuriating. Steel yourself and take a look. “Highlights from 2004 hunt” (shouldn’t that be lowlights?), which you can access after registering, are particularly gruesome and illustrative.

As The Guardian notes, this year’s particularly large hunt is being justified in part by the claim that seals are eating too many fish, wholly ignoring the fact that the Canadian government has long sanctioned unsustainable fishing practices. Yet another example of humans pushing a species to the brink, then using its scarcity as an excuse to massacre its natural predators. That’s a fucked-up cycle.

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