Baywatch Star Files Access to Info Requests; Tries to Uncover Seal Hunt's Financial Data

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Baywatch Star Files Access to Info Requests; Tries to Uncover Seal Hunt's Financial Data

By Andy Blatchford on Winnipeg Free Press
March 2010

Mathews estimates that last year's seal hunt brought in $1 million. Over the same period, he says Canadian taxpayers spent about $7 million on things like defending the hunt and promoting seal products abroad.

Pamela Anderson is firing the first salvo in a new front on the war against Canada's seal hunt.

The Canadian-born actress has personally filed a series of Access to Information requests in an effort to prove the seal hunt actually costs Canadian taxpayers money. She hopes to end Canadians' support for the hunt by appealing to their wallets.

"We're wasting millions of tax dollars every year to prop up the violent, dying seal slaughter," Anderson wrote Tuesday in an email to The Canadian Press.

"It's no longer an issue of concern just for animal advocates but for any Canadian disgusted by government waste. And for the many Canadians who travel abroad, like me, it's a huge embarrassment."

While the hunt has earned Canada criticism abroad, it has so much political support in Canada that it's almost impossible to find a voice in Parliament who would dare speak against it.

In fact, morsels of seal loin, wrapped in double-smoked bacon, have even made it onto the menu at the parliamentary restaurant.

PETA hopes to change that. With the help of the Baywatch star, it's trying a new public-relations approach.

Anderson filed three Access requests Monday with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

PETA's vice-president is expected to announce the animal-rights group's strategy to weaken support for the hunt among Canadian taxpayers at an event Wednesday in Montreal.

"Whether you care about animals or you just care about a waste of your tax dollars, I think this issue has a new meaning for a lot of people now," said PETA vice-president Dan Mathews, who will give a speech titled "How Much Does the Seal Slaughter Cost Canada?" at Concordia University.

Mathews estimates that last year's seal hunt brought in $1 million. Over the same period, he says Canadian taxpayers spent about $7 million on things like defending the hunt and promoting seal products abroad.

"PETA's turning this into an issue that should be quite alarming to all taxpayers," he said in an interview from Los Angeles.

"They (the Canadian government) are spending millions and millions of dollars in a lot of different areas that I think people would be shocked about."

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said Wednesday that while the Canadian sealing industry is not overly profitable right now, the government continues to seek new opportunities.

In January, Shea travelled to China in an attempt to open new markets for Canadian seal products, like sealskin fashions, oils and meat.

"I think that all has tremendous potential," she said.

"Regardless of what our investment is here I think that it's very important that as a government that we stand up for this industry."

Shea insists the government spends less on promoting the sealing industry than the sealers earn.

A spokesman for her department could not immediately provide figures on overall expenditures related to the sealing industry.

Shea suggests that if the industry is in trouble today, groups like PETA share some responsibility. She blames PETA's longstanding "misinformation" campaign for triggering the European Union trade ban on products.

The minister, who had a pie pushed into her face by a PETA protester in January while giving a speech near Toronto, says the hunt is controversial because it's carried out for the whole world to to see.

"If you had a trip inside an abattoir, you may not think that that's very nice either. . . Of course it's dramatic, it's a hunt," she said.

"I can assure people that (seals) are not all that cute. These are big, huge animals that eat tons of fish."