Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon and actor Pamela Anderson speak with reporters outside the St. John's office of the Canadian Sealers Association. Zach Goudie/CBC
Philanthropist Sam Simon, one of the creators of The Simpsons, is offering $1 million in cash to Canadian sealers so they will retire and end the hunt.
Simon, though, was heckled and mocked at a St. John's news conference Tuesday that he staged with Canadian actor and anti-sealing activist Pamela Anderson and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Simon and Anderson slipped an oversized cheque for $1 million under the door of the Canadian Sealers Association. Simon said the money, pledged through his charitable foundation, will go straight to CSA members if the group "facilitates and achieves a long-buzzed-about government buyout of the failing international seal trade."
But Simon and Anderson came in for a rough ride before the gesture, with leaders of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, which owns the building, and other fisheries advocates questioning their campaign.
"Please leave us alone. Take your insane group, and go away," said Jim Winter, a longtime fisheries advocate.
"All of this is is a media event, a stunt, to provide a YouTube moment for fundraising for animal rights. That's all it is," Winter said.
"This is a real thing, an attempt to end a horror show that shouldn't be taking place in the 21st century," said Simon, who created The Simpsons — which coincidentally debuted 24 years ago on Tuesday — with cartoonist Matt Groening and veteran Hollywood producer James L. Brooks.
Since disclosing last year he has terminal cancer, Simon has been committed to spending his fortune on causes he supports, particularly finding homes for abandoned dogs.
Incentive to end seal hunt
In an interview with CBC News, Anderson said the offer should be taken seriously.
"A million dollars is a lot of money in Newfoundland, and it could go to something really terrific," she said.
"This is just a bonus for fishermen. It's a clever way and a great way to help the community."
Anderson said the time is right to end the hunt, and such a move will protect what she called diminishing seal stocks.
But when told that seal populations have actually increased in recent years, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans pegging the harp seal population alone at 7.3 million animals, Anderson said her view stands.
"I don't really know what to say about that. That's not what I am aware of," she said.
"I still don't think that the seal is appropriate. I think it's barbaric. There's no market for it."
Anderson herself became a target, albeit a comedic one, when Mark Critch, one of the stars of CBC's satirical TV series 22 Minutes, showed up as she and Simon spoke with reporters.
Critch said he had a $1-million cheque for Anderson if she would agree to "give up acting."
Simon said he wants the cash to go straight to sealers themselves.
"Canadian politicians remain too timid to initiate a buyout for fear of upsetting swing voters in eastern Canada and because they don't seem to care about individual sealers," Simon said in a written statement.
"That's why I'm appealing to you as a trade leader to break the ice and prompt a buyout like those that helped asbestos miners, tobacco farmers, and workers in other collapsed industries."
Dan Matthews, a PETA senior vice-president who accompanied Simon and Anderson during the St. John's visit, said he was not impressed with the fishermen and others who heckled the group as they spoke to reporters.
"It was interesting to note that the sealers who were heckling were all of retirement age. The fact that there was not one young, vital worker shows that the trade has no future," he said in a statement emailed later to CBC News.
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