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An Interview with Sheryl Fink on Climate Change, Indigenous Traditions, Myths and Truths, and Scientific Methodology and Findings (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/06/15


Sheryl Fink is the Director of Canadian Wildlife Campaigns for IFAW – International Fund for Animal Welfare. She discusses: climate change; indigenous traditions; myths and truths around sealing in Canada; becoming involved; recommended people; final feelings or thoughts; science now; and the main reason for the rejection of science.

Keywords: Canada, Canadian Wildlife Campaigns, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Sheryl Fink.

An Interview with Sheryl Fink on Climate Change, Indigenous Traditions, Myths and Truths, and Scientific Methodology and Findings: Director, Canadian Wildlife Campaigns, IFAW (Part Two)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What about issues around climate change? Although, I note a mis-reportage in the title when individuals in the news may say, “Climate change,” or, “Global warming.” They should say, “Anthropogenic climate change,” or , “Human-induced global warming,” for clarity.

Sheryl Fink: Totally.

Jacobsen: How does this play into the long-term future impacting the population levels and health and wellness of seals?

Fink: We have been seeing climate change impacts on seals in 2006. Because we were waking up to it. The ice is not there on the East Coast like it used to be. Harp seal are an ice dependent species. They need a stable ice surface to give birth to their pups.

They do not give birth on land or have not been found to do so. If there is no ice or if the ice is not thick enough, the moms will abort the pups in water rather than go on land. We have increased abortions of pups in recent years.

Another thing that will happen is the mother will give birth on ice. But if it is not thick enough, and if it breaks up in the storms before the pups are weaned and able to feed themselves, a lot will be crushed or starved to death on shore.

We saw that several years in the past. That is going to have an impact. We are not seeing it so much in the population. Yet, I do not think. As it takes them a bit to mature and for these to show in the adult population, these things are highly variable and thought to be dependent on the ice conditions.

We are seeing years with climate change the numbers being hunted. In some years, the complete set of cubs born in a class year may be wiped out.

2. Jacobsen: What about Indigenous traditions around or my involved sealing? How can we respect those as well?

Fink: We are not against Inuit seal hunting. The Inuit hunt seal in Northern Canada. It is a different seal. It is a different hunt. It is a hunt for food. They use the skin to make clothing and other artifacts. We do not campaign against that.

They have the right to harvest seal. It is their culture, their tradition. We generally are not seeing the large-scale slaughter as seen on the East Coast, which is, as I said, profit-driven. 92% of the meat is wasted and then left on the ice. That is why we focus on the East Coast hunt.

It is unnecessary. It costs Canadian taxpayers dollars to run this year to year. We can find people another source of income rather than paying them to club seals.

3. Jacobsen: Often, or sometimes, there can be a variety of misrepresentations, lies, obfuscations, and so on. At the same time, there can be very good reportage. To the former category, what are some around sealing in Canada? What are some truths that dispel them, just to clear the water?

Fink: We went through a period where the media was content to repeat the Canadian Government talking points. It is humane. It was sustainable. It was well-regulated. They would be repeating this very uncritically. When we showed them the footage of what was happening out there, they would say, “That’s only on a couple of boats. This is not everything.”

We’d say, “This is being captured. The boats know they are being filmed. This is what happens when people know that they are being filmed. I am sure it is not much better when people aren’t being filmed.”

This is very frustrating. The lack of willingness of certain media outlets to question the government talking points. That what the government was telling you was fact or was truth. But in fact, it was not.

I think it has changed, thankfully, in recent years. We are seeing more balanced reporting. We still see a lot of media covering the position. There are too many fish and need to be hunted. Yet, they are not giving equal or adequate coverage of the scientific side saying, “It is not true. At all. There is no evidence for culling seals helping them to recover their numbers.”

It is repeating one side of the story and not realty digging deep int whether there is any scientific basis for the belief, simply repeating as if it were fact. It is very frustrating [Laughing[.

4. Jacobsen: I can imagine. Are there any ways in which individuals can become involved, donating time or professional networks, volunteering hours, or becoming professional trained and then a staff member, and so on?

Fink: Seals specifically, the most important thing that people can do. The reason for its continuance is politics. It was revived because of politics. Brian Tobin saw this to get easy votes on the West Coast of Canada.

To me, it is a political issue. We need to stop funding this thing and start finding alternatives. We need to contact their member of parliament and the government of Canada. Tell them, the politics and policy need to be based on evidence rather than the opinions of sealers or ones not validated by science.

That there are better ways to use taxpayer dollars such as clubbing seals, which has no future. The markets are gone. The markets are not coming back. We spent tens of millions of dollars trying to fond seal markets over the past decades. All of them have failed [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Fink: Why are we still doing this? Why are we keeping this industry afloat? The answer: the only reason is for votes. We know that politicians, even on the East Coast. In Newfoundland, people say, “It was useful before. It is not the jobs that young people want for the future.”

They need to start providing real alternatives for people.

5. Jacobsen: Ayn recommended authors or speakers?

Fink: Let me look at my book selection here [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Fink: One is Linda Peloso. It looks at the political hypocrisy around the whole situation and how much effort is put into finding ways to killing seals and justify killing seals, to placate a very small but vocal minority. People who want to kill seals.

6. Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?

Funk: It is hard to pack into an hour, isn’t it? [Laughing]

Jacobsen: It is.

Fink:  It has gone on for centuries. With some of the schemes over the past couple of years, the idea of killing seals to make aphrodisiacs out of their penises to sell to Asian markets, proposals to kill seals and grind their meat and to make protein powder for body builders.

These were proposals seriously considered by the federal government to justify going out and killing more seals. [You noted sending some more reports to me here.]

This is what the government is spending time and money on, paying for these proposals. They want to slaughter 200,000 seals on Sable Island. It is one of the more popular breeding areas now.

The question is what to do with 200,000 dead seals with no market for it. The idea was what to do with 200,000 dead seals without a market for them. They were going to use modified logging equipment to pick up the bodies and then portable incineration chambers to burn the seals [Laughing] in these incineration chambers, and then dump them in the ocean.

This was going to cost Canadians $26 million dollars. This was the Canadian government [Laughing]. This was back in the Harper days, but still. It is like, really [Laughing]? This is what is going on.

7. Jacobsen: For those who may not be aware, is this a time when science, scientific methodology and facts in other words, were not respect?

Fink: Completely ignored. The Trudeau liberals, they have given a lot of lip service to respecting the science. They have been a lot better. We have a Fisheries Minister who has acknowledged that there is no science supporting the idea of needing to cull seals, kill seals, which is very refreshing.

The role of science plays in policymaking and decision-making is shockingly small in some form. I think particularly in wildlife policy. The other issue that I am working on. Alberta is poisoning wolves.

This is being done because politicians will see endangered Cariboo. We do not see the poisoning the wolves and others with foresting, mining, and all of that. It is killing them. It is killing wolves. Killing wolves is an easy answer and looks good, it makes people think that they are doing something by killing predators.

8. Jacobsen: What is the main reason for the rejection of science? I ask s an expert and as a scientist, to you.

Funk: I think politicians are looking out for themselves. They want to get re-elected in 4 years. It is very difficult for a politician to look beyond the 4-year time frame in a lot of cases. Science is a long-term process.

We need to look at long-term trends to see where things are going. I think all humans have that problem. It is doing what is best in the long-term rather than what seems to be immediately the most gratifying.

In a political sense, getting re-elected or getting the votes, it can often be the main driver in decision-making, not scientific bases or evidence.

Jacobsen: I am out of questions.

Fink: [Laughing] excellent questions.

9. Jacobsen: Thank you very much for the opportunity and your time, Sheryl.

Fink: Well, thank you, I look forward to what comes out of it.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Director, Canadian Wildlife Campaigns, IFAW.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 15, 2019:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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