I used to live in Newfoundland. A piece of rock tilted long ago by the weight of glacier ice, it rises in usually bitter solitude from the floor of the North Atlantic. The weather whips out cold winds, relentless snowfalls and brilliant summers, which culminate in smashing rains before the whole cycle starts anew. Like many of its people, droves of whom are economic refugees in desperate flight for mainland job markets, bits and pieces of the island occasionally tumble into the ocean, never to return.
I used to live in Labrador, too. That’d be Newfoundland’s mainland counterpart. Farther north and remote beyond sanity, it’s colder, harsher and less populated still. I’m talking frost in August. People living in Goose Bay, an air force town at the end of a treacherous 550-km gravel highway, refer to the rest of the country — or the world, for that matter — as the “outside.” That’s ominous stuff. Remote is just a flimsy word in a useless dictionary when you run out of gas in the middle of nowhere on the inside. And, when nowhere is everywhere, “remote” does nothing to describe your surroundings. It’s like calling Ted Bundy aggressive, like saying Chris Farley had a buzz. You’re right, of course, but only in the dimmest of ways.
Every year, hardy and hardened folk from both the island and mainland make their way onto the ice flows, where, with rifle, hakapik or both, they slaughter harp seals in numbers established by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This year, the cull is set for 275,000 animals, up from last year’s 270,000, which was down from over 300,000 the year before. Watch the news: They’re doing it right now, a cross-section of Maritimers shooting and clubbing in tow.
Every year, the seal hunt galvanizes much of the Western world, where human life has reached a level of luxury so high some of us no longer see much value in it. By some of us, I mean people like Paul Watson. A sea-faring environmental type, Watson recently told the media that the death of a few sealers off the coast of Cape Breton was indeed a tragedy — but more tragic still is the death of all those seals.
I’m reminded of some urinal advertising I came across in the Mountain Square bathrooms. There’s a picture of a pint glass accompanied by some text informing me first of the seal hunt and then that my beer is getting warm. “Get angry for the right reasons,” it says. How about ridiculous statements from cult-of-personality activists unable to correctly prioritize the value of various life forms? You pretty much need a cold beer to wash down shit that thick.