November 12, 2013
Chinese Activists Protest Against Seal Product Trade
by Peter Li
Holding a banner that read “Canada, Stop Seal Trade or Face Seafood Boycott!” Chinese activists for the second time "welcomed" the Canadian fisheries delegation with a protest at the China International Fisheries & Seafood Expo held in Dalian earlier this month.
Canada had an impressive presence among the fisheries industry representatives from China’s major trading partners, but the activists noticed immediately that none of the exhibiting Canadian firms was promoting seal products at this year’s event.
Participant Dan Zhang speculated that last year's protest in front of the Canadian pavilion might have sent Ottawa a clear message that seal trade would poison normal trade relations with China. “Our activities last year might have also alerted the Chinese authorities that allowing seal trade promotion at the Expo could only invite strong public reaction, a situation the Chinese authorities consider to be politically destabilizing,” she said.
Unwanted for import
Since the European Union banned seal product trade in 2009, Canada has sought to explore China as an alternative. Canadian politicians and seal industry representatives launched an aggressive offensive to tap into the country's growing purchasing power and what they consider a Chinese thirst for exotic foods. They hope that marketing seal meat to China with the ultimate goal of expanding seal skin export might revive the moribund sealing industry.
This effort has encountered strong opposition from Chinese NGOs, many of which are HSI partners. These groups have communicated with the former Canadian Ambassador to China, written an open letter to the Canadian Senate, and engaged in a face-to-face meeting with the current ambassador. Most importantly, they met with Chinese officials in charge of foreign food imports and urged them to stand firm against Canadian attempts to expand seal trade in China.
"No, thanks" to cruelty
Since 2010, a nationwide anti-seal product trade campaign has helped educate Chinese consumers and public in general about the cruelty and environmental impact of Canada’s commercial seal slaughter. Since seal trade accounts for an insignificant percentage of Canadian-Chinese trade, it is unwise for the Canadian government to provoke the Chinese people by imposing a product of animal cruelty on Chinese consumers.
“We welcome normal trade relations between China and Canada,” commented Mm. Qin Xiaona, director of Beijing Animal Welfare Association. “But Canada is making a historic and an unforgivable mistake in promoting the sale of such products of cruelty to the Chinese people—products that the majority of the Canadians reject.”
It is heartening to think that our Chinese colleagues are finding success with their campaign. Their actions are telling the world that China is no dumping ground for morally questionable imports. They are the hope of humane progress in their country and their efforts are commendable. Take action or donate to help end Canada's commercial seal slaughter.
Dr. Peter Li is China Policy Specialist for HSI.