Ways to, and ways not to Harp

The arrests of the ship captains of the anti-seal hunting vessel, the Farley Mowat has brought increased media coverage to controversial practice.

Let’s examine statements from both Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson and Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn.

First Watson, who in framing the context of the seizing of the vessel with the ultimate fate of the seal hunt says:

“We haven’t seen any evidence of a humane hunt here,” Mr. Watson said. “We’re presenting this evidence to the European Parliament. They are going to pass a bill to ban seal products. That will end the Canadian seal hunt. We’re looking at the end of days for the seal hunt.”

The statement pushes back the story away from the seizure and the arrest (ie the anti-seal hunters acting illegally) and re-frames the concept of the hunt as an archaic, soon to be obsolete practice. The last line is a little more inflammatory than an advocating statement should be, but groups that protest like unions, social or environmental agencies can get away with fiery language.

Now, let’s look at Minister Hearn’s statement. First, he denies that the government is blocking observers:

“We have issued over 75 permits this year for people to come visit within 30 feet of the hunt,” Mr. Hearn said. “If you have a permit, you can do that. … The boat did not have a permit.”

This appeal is to policy which may not be exceptionally compelling but is acceptable, especially from large organizations and governments — as long as the policy is reasonable, or at least, procedural. But then, inexplicably, the Minister gets cute:

Mr. Hearn said the incident has garnered international exposure, exposing Mr. Watson’s group as one that flouts the rules with little regard for international law.

“Observe is one thing, obstruct is something else,” he said. “It’s like the old days in Dodge before Wyatt Earp. This is the new Dodge, Mr. Watson. Welcome to Canada and welcome to the new Dodge City.”

Now Minister Hearn leaves the comfort of a policy defence by making allusions to the Wild West and martial law. The statement is overly aggressive and suggests an overzealous threat against seal hunting opponents. Analogies in media statements should act to simplify a complex position. This analogy only aggrandizes the perception of the government as an out-of-touch bully.

4 Stractical points for Mr. Watson and we’ll take away a Colt .45 from Minister Hearn in honour of his self-proclamation as Canada’s Wyatt Earp.

seal hunt



  1. I was quite appalled by the demeanor of Minister Hearn. He looks like the fanatic.

    I am not in the least impressed that he is making us the allies of Japan and there “dolphin clubbing” ways. The worlds oceasn are choking on plastic debris and Canada is STILL BLAMING EVERYONE ELSE FOR ITS PROBLEMS. Boo Hoo. Yeah Right.

    I recall how we were contacted by Minister Crosbie in advance of the closure of the cod fishery like he thought it would make us happy if the Canadian government closed the fishery after it was completely hopelessly collapsed. Sorry, I recall very well that time and how every Newfie politician was chiming how there was lots of cod still out there till the very end. Newfoundland has given Canada nothing but the most two faced politicians who care nothing about truth.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Gord.

    As always, Stractical comments on the communications play and not the politics. Thanks for reading!

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