Nfld. & Labrador·Analysis

Rezori | Where are the animal rights groups?

A seal hunt without animal rights activists is like a Christmas parade without elves, writes Azzo Rezori, who wonders why a key group stayed home.

A seal hunt without activists is like a Christmas parade without elves

The International Fund for Animal Welfare often supplied photos like this one, taken off Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011, to wire services for newspapers and magazines. (IFAW/Canadian Press)

Everything's been right on time again.

We had a great May, including the traditionally lousy long weekend. The dandelions came and went (I love them as long as they stay off my property). The fog days of June came upon us as scheduled.

By the time the caplin start rolling, Middle Cove might even be back to where it was before the last storm turned it into an uncharacteristically sandy beach.

But something's been missing. I've had that feeling ever since the boys went out sealing last month and we hardly heard about it except on the Fisheries Broadcast. And then it came to me the other day. We never saw one of the key animal rights groups this year!

All right. When the new pope can embrace atheists as long as they do good works (as Catholics should), everything's possible, even animal rights groups accepting that seals can be killed for the right reasons.

Of course that's not what's really going on. Back in late April, a few weeks before the seal hunt was due to start, the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) issued a statement saying it wasn't going to bother holding demonstrations on the ice this year.

What? A seal hunt without animal rights activists? That's a Christmas parade without elves. A Thanksgiving dinner without cranberry sauce.

Granted, the Humane Society for the United States made its presence known this year. IFAW, though, stayed away.

A shift in efforts

When an enemy has you up against the rope and then suddenly disappears, you know he's up to no good. In this case, the IFAW announced that it saw more gain in shifting its efforts from the real world of the slaughter to the murky world of lobbying.

I suppose spring is a lot milder in Brussels than along the Gulf of St. Lawrence or in St. Anthony.

You also don't have to wait until mid-May for the dandelions. The restaurants are probably better, the hotels more chic, and if you're Canadian and a product of French immersion you can show off your franglais as you order your Belgian waffles.

There's also the IFAW's confident message that it's won the public opinion war. Now it's just a matter of pressing the advantage home in the right places.

Here's where we can heave a little sigh of hope. The ancient Greeks called that kind of behaviour hubris — when you forget where you came from and what you cut your teeth on. The IFAW has finally come out of the closet of its intentions.

Its long-running campaign to stop the seal hunt is no longer about seals, it's now about something much more seductive and far more slippery: power.

The time bomb of power

It may not seem that way, but that's good news. Power is a time bomb in anybody's pocket, I don't care whose. It will go off sooner or later, guaranteed.

There's been nothing particularly honest about the way organizations like the IFAW have manipulated the information they gathered on the hunt each year. But as long as they came out themselves, made a public spectacle of it, rubbed every uninformed sensitivity raw with their gruesome claims, they remained grounded in something real.

Now they're into a very different world where nothing's ever quite what it seems, where decisions float like wisps of smoke that intoxicate more than they settle things, where the only glimpse they'll ever get of a kill is on a plate garnished with steak tartare. And trust me, there they'll lose their way.

Let's hope it takes them a long time to figure that out themselves. The longer it'll take them, the less the world will see of them.

And by the time they come crawling back to reconnect with their roots on the ice, the world will have moved on and forgotten and no longer give a damn.