Humane Hype and the Seafood Boycott That Wasn't

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is no stranger to political posturing, frequently exaggerating -- as most animal rights radicals do -- for maximum effect and maximum fundraising impact. Witness the group's response to Hurricane Katrina: more than $30 million raised with heart-rending tales of displaced pooches, but comparatively little spent reuniting lost bayou pets with their owners. (Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti is investigating.) This week the group's exaggerations are crossing national borders, and our neighbors to the North are fighting back.

HSUS claims over 2,000 U.S. restaurants and seafood distributors are "boycotting" Canadian seafood (especially the trade-critical snow crab), as part of its campaign to pressure Ottawa into canceling an annual seal hunt. HSUS insists the boycott has cost Canada hundreds of millions of dollars in exports. But last year the Center for Consumer Freedom surveyed the supposed U.S. boycotters, finding that 78 percent weren't actually shunning Canadian seafood.

Now Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has released trade figures showing that a two-year slide in snow crab prices started 6 months before HSUS announced its campaign. "[T]he data suggest," DFO writes, "that the HSUS's claims about the success of the boycott are much inflated at best, but more likely they are simply deceptive and misleading."

Savvy web surfers browsing HSUS's list of "boycotters" will see several whose online menus boast Prince Edward Island mussels and other proscribed Canadian seafood. As usual, "humane" hype has not lived up to reality.