Mark & Steve – Seal Hunt

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Mark and Steve talk about hunting of seals and the recent banning of the importation of seal products by the European Union. They also touch on the Swine Flu again and the possible move to Canada of an American professional hockey team

Mark: Welcome back, again, to EnglishLingQ.

Steve: Hello there.

Mark: Mark here with Steve.

Having just read that spiel, it reminds me of the conference we were at last week where people weren’t quite sure how to pronounce LingQ.

When I explained that, in fact, it was LingQ and not “Link You”, someone expressed disappointment.

They thought Link You was a better name, because it links you, I guess.

Steve: Right.

Mark: Anyway, that was kind of interesting.

Steve: By the way, since you’re talking about that conference, I was very impressed; it was a conference here in Vancouver.

People who have developed wireless or other applications to be used with wireless devices gave presentations.

They were all limited to three minutes and just about everyone stayed within the three minutes.

This is in contrast to a conference that I attended, because I now am a Director of the Canadian Council for the Americas Vancouver branch.

There was a big conference about Canada and Latin America and they had ambassadors there, both ambassadors from those countries to Canada and some Canadian ambassadors who were on their way out there.

Let me say that they had a lot of trouble staying within their allotted time.

Mark: Which was probably longer than three minutes.

Steve: Which was much longer than three minutes and, so, the first group of four or five ambassadors got to hog a lot of the time.

The one thing that was fixed was we had to get out of the room so that they could set, you know, the tables for dinner.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So the first group just yapped on and on enough to hear themselves; you know all kinds of high-flying statements.

Then the next four countries, which were then Columbia and whatever, they had to stick to their time limit.

Mark: Right.

Steve: But the first group, in love with what they had to say, was able to just waffle on.

Mark: Well and a great way of doing it, I thought, at that conference you were at.

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: All of a sudden, if people were going too long, there’d be some kind of a goofy audio clip of, you know, someone answering the phone or some voice saying something goofy.

That’s your cue, it’s over.

And most people wrapped it up pretty quickly after that.

There was one guy, maybe you missed that guy, but he kind of kept groaning on and looked annoyed.

I’m like, actually, everybody else here is annoyed.

You have no right to be annoyed.

People aren’t that interested in what you’re saying, fit in your three minutes and sit down.

Steve: Well, besides, they have a great long list of people who want to speak.

Mark: Exactly.

Steve: It’s not a matter of even…I think some of those ambassadors were interesting to listen to, but maybe the other group also had some things that were of interest, you know?

But, I think it’s a good idea to have it automatically timed like that because, otherwise, the Master of Ceremonies is always reluctant to interrupt his Excellency, you know, who’s droning on about something.

Mark: Exactly.

It’s much more difficult to say, oh, excuse me, excuse me, your times up, rather than all of a sudden over the P.A.

comes some goofy sound clip.

Steve: I know.

Anyway, you know I was thinking Mark, these podcasts of ours; we really are sort of contrarians.

We’re always kind of “pooh-poohing”, as we say…

Mark: That’s true.

Steve: …some of the sort of conventional wisdoms.

And along that line…and I know you have some things you want to talk about, but I just wanted to mention…I was reading in the paper this morning that the seasonal flu that every year we get here…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …during flu season is much more contagious, apparently, than the so-called Swine Flu.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And there’s nothing special about Swine Flu because we have been getting flu from swine and other animals for a long, long time.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So this whole… From what I gather, if this is correct, and certainly in terms of the number of people who die every year from flu, it’s a large number.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And the Swine Flu hasn’t come any where…

Mark: Well, no one has died from it in Canada anyway.

Steve: Not in Canada, so… I mean it’s just another example of how things are just hyped out of all proportion and, in the end, as they pointed out in the newspaper, if, as a result of this, economic activity in Mexico comes to a grinding halt, tourism is killed off, people don’t go there, that’s going to cost them a lot of money.

And so people are going to suffer economically and typically the people who suffer the most are the poor people.

If they suffer economically their health will suffer, so probably the fallout from the Swine Flu will end up having worse health effects and probably leading to the premature death of more people than the Swine Flu itself.

Mark: That’s probably true.

I think with regard to – whatever you want to call it – the normal flu or the seasonal flu, the people most affected by the seasonal flu are the elderly, I believe, and maybe young children.

I don’t know that for a fact, but I know that it’s the elderly and that’s why they always encourage the elderly to get flu shots in flu season; whereas, I think partly what’s got people’s fears aroused in Mexico is that it’s not the elderly at all, it’s relatively young adults.

Twenty to 40 or something is the age group that seems to be most affected, so maybe that’s partly the reason.

It’s obviously out of the norm for the seasonal flu, anyway.

Steve: And the problem, to be fair, too, is that if people think that there is a chance that something like a pandemic is about to happen it’s always best to err on the side of caution.

Mark: Absolutely and the fact that Mexico City, it sounds like, came to a grinding halt there for a while.

I don’t know if it’s still like that, but it could have reduced the spread.

Steve: Yeah, we don’t know.

Mark: Not being on expert on the spread of diseases, you go by what you read and hear.

Steve: I gather a bus load of Canadian students arrived in Beijing and were promptly put into quarantine.

Mark: Not in Beijing, it was somewhere in Northern China.

Steve: In China.

And, of course, being in China, you know, access…like the Embassy is only allowed to see them for 10 minutes.

You can just see that it’s a major kafuffle.

Mark: That’s the greatest.

The Embassy is only allowed to meet with them for 10 minutes and they must take their temperature three times a day and record it every day for a week.

Anyway, it just all sounds pretty funny.

Steve: On the other hand, when there was a massive sort of tidal wave of poisonous chemicals moving towards some town in North China nobody announced it because nobody really wanted to be, you know, on the hook and, hopefully, it might stop.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Anyway… Now they’re going after these Canadians, so that’s good.

That’s good, they won’t infect anyone.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Anyway…

Mark: Another topic that’s been in the news a lot in Canada recently is this banning of the seal hunt, which probably doesn’t rate in most other countries as a news item.

Although, I guess there are a lot of places where the anti seal hunt propaganda machine has got their message out.

I must be honest, I can’t recall the last time I saw a product made from seal skin.

Steve: Right.

Mark: I mean I guess they used to use seal skins for cross-country skiing to climb up hillsides, but, I don’t know.

Steve: I think one of the major products is…

Mark: I think those are synthetic now.

Steve: Yeah.

I think you have these cute mascots that are sold in Canadian souvenir stores that are made in China and they might be made of seal skin.

Mark: That could be.

Steve: But it’s a fur, it’s a fur.

I guess there are people who wear…maybe it’s a lining for something, I don’t know.

Mark: Apparently a third of their market is in Europe, so obviously there are Europeans that buy this stuff.

But, then, I guess… I mean, personally, whether they hunt seals or not, it’s not on my radar, it doesn’t bother me either way, but it does bother me when a government body does not allow you.

Steve: Right.

Mark: You are not allowed to buy seal skin.

Steve: Right.

Mark: Well, why not? What’s wrong with seal skin?

Steve: Well, I mean the argument is that it looks very cruel because you have these cute little seal pups going “oink, oink, oink” and then some mean old guy comes up and just whacks them over the head and takes their pelt and doesn’t use, you know, the meat for anything.

So if a person wants to make the personal decision not to buy a seal skin product then I can perfectly understand that.

Mark: Absolutely.

Steve: I would recommend that anyone who eats chicken never ever go to a chicken farm or a place where they pluck and slaughter and then prepare chickens for our table, because that looks pretty revolting too.

Mark: Well that’s what I was going to say.

I mean what about all the cattle that are slaughtered that live in cramped conditions and, you know, not necessarily pleasant conditions?

Steve: Right.

Mark: All the poultry and…

Steve: It’s horrible, actually.

Mark: It’s pretty horrible.

And so what’s worse, that or the way the seals are clubbed?

I mean who’s to say?

Steve: Well, exactly.

And the other thing is, on the positive side…although they do have an image problem, they do have an image problem.

But, on the positive side, apparently the seal population has been expanding and we see it here on the west coast.

They have no predators, there are just more and more seals and the seals eat a lot of fish.

That’s what they do.

Mark: Right.

Steve: They eat fish.

Again, I’m not a fisheries expert, but apparently the argument is that controlling the seals is good for our cod stocks.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Now should humans be intervening in these things?

I mean we do inevitably anyway and humans are part of the predatory cycle…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …part of the food chain.

So, I don’t know.

Mark: I don’t know either, but I guess it’s a bit like…for a long time the forest industry was the poster child for all the Greenpeace, save a tree, hug a tree and all this and the seal hunt business is a similar poster child.

Steve: Right.

Mark: You know Paul McCartney and his wife were out there parading around in Zodiacs, which gives, obviously, this big PR boost to the whole seal hunt thing; otherwise, people wouldn’t even know about it.

Steve: Right.

Mark: It just happens in Newfoundland, I mean…

Steve: Well, that’s right.

To me, of all the sort of injustices that take place on this planet, it doesn’t rank very high.

On the other hand, the fur industry, in general, is regularly sort of attacked.

Mark: Harassed.

Steve: Most of the people involved in the fur industry in Canada are quite poor.

They live up north, many of them are natives.

They have trap lines; this is their means of livelihood.

It’s a way of life, it’s their culture.

And I am quite convinced that furs are just about the most environmentally-benign clothing material that there is, because most cotton is grown in massive monoculture plantations…

Mark: Lots of fertilizer, I’m sure.

Steve: …with lots of fertilizer flowing into their water system…

Mark: …and pesticides.

Steve: Not to mention the synthetic fibers, which are part of a nonrenewal industry, which is the petroleum industry.

So, furs, as long as it’s handled in a sustainable way, I think it’s great.

What I do like about the fur protestors is that you sometimes get very attractive women parading around naked to protest, you know, and they’re welcome to come and do that outside my office here, I think that’s great!

Mark: It certainly is a very effective method.

Steve: Well, yeah, they can also carry posters promoting LingQ while they’re doing it, you know?

Mark: Yeah, I mean I know that whole PETA.

I don’t know what it stands for, but the anti-fur lobby, I don’t understand it.


I mean people have been wearing furs forever and, as you say, it’s completely renewable.

Yes, you know it’s no different than how the food appears on your table; something had to die for the food to appear on your table.

Something had to die for your fur coat, but why that’s a crime and has to be so vehemently protested against, I must say, I don’t understand, especially, as you point out, because it’s probably environmentally more friendly than just about any other type of clothing.

Steve: Right.

Now I have nothing against a person who finds it cruel and doesn’t want to use seals or fur or anything else…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …people make their own decisions, but for the government to ban it I think is just silly.

But speaking of furs, I’m reminded of the story when you were playing hockey.

You’ve heard the story, but I think it might be fun for some our listeners.

You were playing hockey for Yale and, of course, Yale has a team in this Ivy League, which is this sort of elite American University League.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So your mother and I came down to watch you play and you were playing at this one college and, of course, we’re surrounded by all these Ivy League students and, of course, your mother had on a fur coat.

So the student sitting beside your mother made some comment about the fur coat and, of course, as you know, your mom doesn’t take this lying down, so to speak, and she said, “Oh yeah?

Do you eat meat?” So the American student said, “No.” And she said, “You lie.

Of course you eat meat, that’s why you’re so fat!

That’s why all Americans are fat!” she said.

Mark: Oh, well…

Steve: At this point that was unfair, but, yeah, it’s unfair. At this point I withdrew.

I ran up a few steps, I didn’t want to be there for this.

But the point is this, that, yeah, the way we deal…and maybe we should be, I don’t know, more humane, but where do you draw the line?

I mean, I don’t know.

Mark: The whole humane thing I think is just silly.

People are animals and we prey on smaller animals.

We’re fortunate that we don’t have to worry about being preyed upon, most of the time, by other animals, but we’re part of the food chain and that’s the way it’s always been and the way it always will be.

Steve: Right. I guess, again, the distinction…

Mark: Carrying on about it…I just don’t… As you say, personal preference, that’s fine, you do what you like, but don’t try and tell me or others how to behave.

Steve: But, you know this is the point, too, that I guess some people criticize the fact that they kill the seals and don’t eat the meat.

But it reminds me, too, I was reading somewhere that someone was saying that their 11-year-old daughter is a vegetarian.

I mean that’s pretty bad.

Mark: Well, that’s pretty bad, yeah.

Steve: Because an 11 year old has been totally influenced by her teacher, by someone else.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And I don’t think being a vegetarian is that healthy for you when you’re young.

Mark: No.

Steve: Because we need the protein and we need other things that come from the meat.

Now an adult can make his or her own decisions and may supplement or whatever, but for an 11 year old to be a vegetarian, I think that’s pretty bad.

Mark: Right. Well, absolutely.

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: I mean, obviously, if the parents are of that persuasion…

Steve: No, they aren’t.

Mark: They’re not?

Steve: No, no, no, they’re quite concerned.

They think she picked it up at school or maybe she, you know… Because there’s all kinds of now subliminal messaging in all the games that they get about planting trees and being a vegetarian and she didn’t want to kill an animal and all this kind of stuff.

Mark: Yeah, I know.

Steve: We kill animals.

Mark: Exactly.

Steve: For millions of years humans and their predecessors have been killing animals.

Mark: And there are still lots of animals around.

Steve: I know.

Anyway, we shouldn’t get…we always get back to environmentalism.

What else have you got on the agenda?

Mark: The only other thing that’s, again, of note in Canada is that one of the cofounders of Blackberry, which is a hand-held phone that’s been very successful, they want to buy a hockey team in Phoenix and move it to…

Steve: A professional hockey team.

Mark: …southern Ontario.

And that’s big news in Canada where hockey, of course, is king.

What’s interesting is that this team was originally a Canadian-based team.

It was in Winnipeg and it moved down to Phoenix about, I don’t know, 15 years ago, I don’t know how long it’s been, but it’s never done very well in Phoenix which, not surprisingly, is not much of a hockey hotbed.

Steve: The Sunbelt.

Mark: They’ve been losing lots of money and apparently they’re going into bankruptcy and so this guy has offered to step in and buy it and move it.

I guess it’s a big story, too, because the NHL ownership…

Steve: The NHL is the National Hockey League.

Mark: …for a long time has been trying to push this idea of hockey teams in the southern United States or in the Sunbelt to try and spread the game to increase the audience.

A lot of people in Canada feel that the League sort of takes for granted its fan base in Canada and is far too focused on markets where people just aren’t interested.

Steve: I mean it’s an interesting point, because to Canadians they almost feel that they have a right because hockey is so popular in Canada and so many players come from Canada and for the longest period Canada was the main hockey nation.

I mean hockey has spread; it’s spread a lot in Europe.

Mark: Right.

Steve: We see a lot of teams now, very competitive teams, from places like Latvia, obviously Finland.

Finland, which 20-30 years ago wasn’t that competitive, now very strongly beat Canada recently in the World Cup match; although, that’s not over yet.

Hungary I see was there, Switzerland is now strong, Germany and so forth, so it’s been successful in Europe.

They’ve tried to spread it into the southern part of the United States.

Part of the problem is that out of…how many teams are there in the League?

Mark: Thirty, maybe.

Steve: Thirty teams; there’s only four or, whatever, six Canadian teams.

Mark: Six.

Steve: So the majority of the owners are Americans and they would rather see Columbus, Ohio or you know Chicago or Philadelphia come to town than a team from Kitchener-Waterloo…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …which nobody would be able to find on a map.

So in terms of their product, from a strictly business point of view, they don’t want a bunch of Canadian teams because that’s going to make it more difficult to sell the product in their area.

Fine, yet they haven’t been successful.

Those teams are dying in those places like Phoenix and Nashville.

How’s it doing in Nashville?

Mark: Not very well, they almost folded a couple of years ago.

This same guy tried to buy the Nashville team and he wasn’t allowed.

Steve: But it is a business.

So, to that extent, it’s not a matter of national interest, it’s a matter of business.

Mark: Well, absolutely not.

But the thing is, like Phoenix, they say they’ve lost something like $200 million over the last 10 years or something.

Steve: Wow.

Mark: I mean they lose $20 million a year because their rink is empty and there’s no television money for hockey in the U.S.

Steve: But is there opposition now to moving the team to Canada?

Mark: Well, from the Commission of the League.

Steve: Which means, presumably, he represents a majority of the owners.

Mark: Presumably he represents the owners.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Toronto Maple Leafs are resistant as well…

Steve: Right. Now…

Mark: …because they’ve, up until now, had that whole southern Ontario market to themselves.

I mean I guess it would affect their revenue slightly, maybe, but I mean they’re, if not the richest franchise, one of the top two.

I mean their rink is full.

Steve: But if they can get away with it and protect the market.

Mark: Right.

Steve: So the League as a League has to make a decision.

Canadians get all upset and nationalistic over it, I just think it’s a business decision and the majority of their owners have to decide what they think is in their interest, that’s all.

Mark: Right, right.

Steve: But you know it reminds me of this other issue that I mentioned once on my blog, which was the issue over… How much time do we have?

Mark: I think that’s probably enough.

Steve: Alright. So I won’t get into that subject then.

Mark: No.

Steve: We’ll save that for next time.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Mark: Okay, talk to you later.

Steve: Okay.

Mark: Bye-bye.

Steve: Bye.

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