World

Anti-seal hunt seafood boycott called 'phoney'

A U.S.-based consumer group is questioning what it calls a "phoney" Canadian seafood boycott being hailed by an animal rights organization opposed to the East Coast seal hunt.

A U.S.-based consumer group is questioning what it calls a "phoney" Canadian seafood boycott being organized by an animal rights group opposed to the East Coast seal hunt.

"The public is being fooled. The boycott is phoney. It is not as advertised," said David Martosko, research director for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Consumer Freedom.

The centre, which lobbies for the food industry, contacted about a third of the nearly 300 companies listed as participating in the boycott organized by the Humane Society of the United States.

Martosko said 62 per cent of the companies contacted were unaware they had been listed as cancelling purchases of Canadian seafood to push for the annual seal hunt off Newfoundland, Quebec and the Maritimes to be banned.

The group also found more than 45 per cent of the restaurants on the society's list have never served Canadian products.

At least one prominent chef in New York City was surprised to hear his restaurant was on the list prepared by the Humane Society of the United States.

"If you come to my restaurant right now, I have scallops from Digby, halibut from up north, northern Canada, I do have oysters, [and] P.E.I. mussels," said David Pasternack, chef at Esca in Manhattan.

Pasternack said nobody asked him to boycott Canadian seafood.

"I don't know who the Humane Society is, so I wouldn't really know who did it or what," he said.

Earlier this year, the Humane Society of the United States enlisted British pop superstar Paul McCartney and his wife, Heather Mills McCartney, to campaign against the hunt by coming to Canada.

Both mentioned the boycott during their visit to Prince Edward Island, as well as on an appearance on CNN's Larry King Live.

John Grandy, vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States, insists the boycott has been effective as a tool to try to close down the seal hunt.

"If they think it's not working, why are they worried about it? Of course it's working, and it's working very, very well," Grandy said.

Grandy is among the members of the society who have travelled to Atlantic Canada to film and to try to disrupt this year's hunt.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says seven protesters, including two Canadians, were arrested over the weekend.

They face charges of violating the conditions of their observer permits, which include staying at least 10 metres away from seal hunters.

The hunt began Saturday morning, hampered by thin ice conditions and more protesters than usual.

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