Voices of the seal hunt: communicating our views of animals and ourselves

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The controversy over the killing of seals on the ice floes off of Atlantic Canada continues to be a very heated, socio-political and moral debate. Sealers’ activities first came under intense public scrutiny in the early 1960s with the broadcast of a television documentary showing graphic footage of seals being clubbed. Since that time, the “seal war” has become an emotional war of words and images fought primarily via media outlets. This paper focuses on analyzing the content of public opinions as published in Canadian news sources. The aim was to elucidate the relevant arguments and delineate the major concerns of each “side” to the conflict. The language used was closely examined. Through this type of inquiry, it is hoped that underlying causes of the disagreement and apparent impasse may be discovered so that a more informed, respectful, and meaningful discourse may someday take place. The results showed that improved communication will be critically important if we are ever to change the status quo which is endless protest, endless backlash, and endless sealing. The paper is divided into three general sections. Section I gives important background information, without which the issue cannot be adequately understood. A synopsis of the pertinent legal and policy framework is also included. Section II establishes theories and perspectives on the human treatment of non-human animals, explores how our conceptions are conditioned both socially and through the very language we employ, and sets the tone for further inquiry by relating these ideas to the Canadian seal hunt. Section III uses content analysis to explore seal hunt opinion. One interpretation regarding the root of this controversy is offered. The central thesis is that human beings ultimately accept varying treatments of “others” in direct relation to how they perceive themselves and their own status in the world around them.





Sturn, Terra Magdalen (2006). Voices of the seal hunt: communicating our views of animals and ourselves. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/54.

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