FOR the second consecutive year, on ice-floes off the Newfoundland coast, the hunt of baby harp seals for their white coats has been canceled. We hope the cancellation becomes permanent.
However, continued vigilance on the part of the public is required. Although the hunters have canceled this year's hunt of the seal pups, the Canadian government has not decided to make the hunt illegal. If the price of the pelts of baby seals were to rise, it is possible that they might be hunted another year - if the public were to cease its protestations.
There are signs, too, that the public protests are having an effect on the annual hunt of adult seals, which is to be held this year. Because worldwide demand for seal pelts is down, the number killed is expected to be much lower this year than usual.
In the short run it was the threat of an international boycott of Canadian fish, partially carried out, that caused hunters to decide not to kill baby seals this year. If a boycott threatened in the US were to prove effective, ultimately it might limit future hunting of the adults.
In the long run the cessation of seal pup hunting stems from the determined opposition of individuals, banded together as animal protection and environmental groups. As the result of the publicity and pressure they engendered, in recent years worldwide demand for seal pelts has dropped substantially, and prices have fallen.
Some sealers say their hunts had been taking place for 400 years.In the face of this, it is clear that - through determination, organization, and an effective message - individuals can make a difference in changing long-established policies.