Published Oct 28, 2009As we reported last week, Animal Collective are the latest band to back PETA's "Save the Seals" ad campaign, helping "spread the word about the tens of thousands of seals who are shot or bludgeoned to death for their fur each year" in Canada. Well, it turns out that the coordinator of the Seal and Sealing Network (SSN) is less than pleased with the band's stance. And he's not just some random indie rock-hating sealer. He actually likes the band - or, well, liked.
In a letter to Exclaim! (see below), SSN's David F. Barry informed us that he's trashed the Animal Collective album he owned after reading that the band are supporting the ad series, writing that AC are not so much "joining forces" with PETA "as being snowballed by the barrage of crap that makes up PETA's loosely laden bandwagon of 'seal-hunt stoppers.'"
He also adds, "Isn't it strange that they choose album titles like Feels when they put such low priority in their own senses?"
For those unfamiliar with the SSN, in an interview with Exclaim!, Barry explains, "The SSN operates under the Fur Institute of Canada. The overall structure of our organization is 'roundtable,' with membership across provincial governments, fur-industry sectors, trappers' and hunters' - e.g., sealers' - organizations, animal-welfare advocates and researchers - veterinary interests - and conservationists. We're advocates and spokespeople for the conservation and animal-welfare interests across Canada's fur industry."
Barry sees PETA in a different light than many in any sort of indie circle tend to, and he's hoping other people can cast as critical an eye on the organization, just as a critical eye has been cast on his.
"PETA perpetuates notions of naivety about seals, ignorance towards sealing, and outright intolerance and bigotry towards seal hunters," Barry says. "Their campaigns are superficial, self-serving, divisive, and overall very counterproductive where any legitimate concerns may lie."
Barry goes on to say that PETA's concerns about seal conservation are, at best, not well thought out, and that, because the organization doesn't work directly with sealer associations, they do not have a grasp on what really goes on. For example, Barry says that the proper hunting methods of professional Canadian sealers are in accordance with proper animal-welfare practices, as concluded by members of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA 2002), the Independent Veterinarians' Working Group (IVWG 2005) and the European Union's Food Safety Authority (EFSA 2007).
"PETA's stance on seal saving is grossly misplaced," says Barry. "If PETA truly is concerned with seal conservation, then they should at least acknowledge the fact that the World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists the harp seal (Phoca groenlandica) as having a conservation status of 'least concern.' If there is a seal species they really want to 'save,' then they could focus on the Hawaiian Monk Seal, as an example, which number fewer than 1,000 in the wild. Instead, they spin myths about the need to save harp seals while other species do not get the public attention they deserve."
He continues: "PETA's notion of cruelty in sealing is based in animal rights, not in hunting practices. By using words like 'cruel,' 'barbaric,' 'brutal,' etc., to describe sealing, PETA makes a judgement about the practices and attitudes of Canadian sealers. Yet we know for a fact that PETA does not engage directly with sealers' associations or other sealing interests to try to understand or influence practices. Nor do they appeal to science for independent assessment of the process. Instead they compile negative imagery and fuse it with lies and emotional pleas. Sealing for them is nothing more than a far-off fantasy."
And just how did Barry trash his Animal Collective album?
"Quite cleanly, and with zero plastic disposal," he says. "I opened up iTunes, selected the album tracks, hit 'delete,' and then selected 'move files to trash.'"
Here is Barry's original letter to Exclaim!, in full:
I had just one copy of an Animal Collective album, Feels, which I dutifully trashed after reading that they have "joined forces" with PETA to "stop the seal hunt." I wonder where these guys are coming from; surely none of them can attest to ever actually having met a sealer, or having discussed with a sealer proper hunting practices, ethical attitudes, sustainable use, etc. Really, Animal Collective is not so much "joining forces" as being snowballed by the barrage of crap that makes up PETA's loosely laden bandwagon of "seal-hunt stoppers." If they all have one thing in common, it's that they think they have been "educated" enough by PETA's well-crafted video showcases to now form opinions on the so-called "obvious cruelty" involved in killing a seal. Can I at least ask what is so "obvious" about cruelty in sealing? Does the general public even get an accurate representation with highly selective imagery, when 99-plus percent of the images used by activists depict less than 5 percent of the practices (I mean using hakapiks over high-powered rifles, all efficacy arguments aside)? And WHY should we equate images of blood, death and animal post-mortem reflexes with notions of pain, suffering and deliberate torture by humans? Where exactly are these new PETA recruits making such a leap - is it in the practice or the propaganda?
I guess for Animal Collective there is nothing wrong with presuming to understand completely the attitudes and lives of people in far-off places, in this case having never even talked to a single sealer. They buy into someone else's story - PETA's story, PETA's motives - and care not for a first-hand look; not even for more research and context. Now that I think of it, isn't it strange that they choose album titles like Feels when they put such low priority in their own senses?
But it's the same old story. When Paul McCartney visited (or, more correctly, was delivered onto) La Banquise off Quebec's Magdalen Islands some years back, his entourage of manipulators refused even to allow a meeting to take place between him and the president of the Magdalen Islands Sealers Association. Of course I wouldn't expect anything different now - and especially not from PETA - but you might just wonder what these groups have to hide.
David F. Barry
Coordinator, Seals and Sealing Network