Pierre-Yves Daoust, wildlife veterinarian

Pierre-Yves Daoust is a professor emeritus and adjunct professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of Prince Edward Island, who lists among his research interests “Animal welfare aspects of trapping and sealing”. This article first appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of The Canadian Trapper.

While I was reading the last issue of The Canadian Trapper, I thought about writing a short article. I always like browsing through this magazine, and I just wanted to tell other readers why someone in my position enjoys this.

You see, I am not a trapper or a hunter. I do not even fish. But I am a wildlife veterinarian with a deep love for wild animals, and I have dealt with sealers, trappers, hunters, conservation officers and park wardens much of my professional life.

Having worked for a few decades at the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of PEI, I feel very comfortable among two seemingly different groups of people: the very dedicated animal lovers (starting with our veterinary students) and the users of wildlife resources (sealers, trappers, and the like). But frankly, these two groups are not mutually exclusive.

For one thing, I am often pleased by the interest of our students to learn about sealing and trapping. Some, but not all of them, may continue to dislike the idea of these kinds of wildlife use, but with a willingness to be more informed comes a better understanding, and with it more respect. For myself, I realized a long time ago that the good sealers, trappers and hunters know far more than me about wildlife and that I stand to learn a whole lot from them.

This is why I like reading through The Canadian Trapper. I have my favourites. I always read Jim Gibb’s column about the fur market. Not that I have any personal interest in the economics of the fur trade, but he always comes up with some interesting tidbits of information and I feel that I should know at least a bit about where the market is going (which I know has been on a steep downhill for a while).

Of course, I also always read from top to bottom the report from the PEI Trappers Association. Lately, I have enjoyed reading the series of articles by Danielle Levesque, based on her oral presentations. I find it very refreshing to get the perspective of a young woman about trapping.

Celebrating the Seal Hunt

Pierre-Yves Daoust eating seal
Pierre-Yves Daoust savouring roasted ribs from a freshly killed young ringed seal at an Inuit camp west of Pond Inlet in northern Nunavut, June 2018.

In early March 2020, I attended the “Rendez-vous Loup-marin” on the Magdalen Islands, Québec, an annual celebration of all the positive things that the seal hunt has brought to that community. That time, it was women’s turn to contribute to the industry – including cuisine, clothing, arts, marketing and more to be celebrated. It was impressive to see all that women have done for the industry over many years.

It is my work with the sealing industry and with Inuit hunters in Nunavut that has cemented my appreciation and respect for responsible users of wildlife resources.

No Hardware Store Nearby

Newfoundland sealers
Crew members working hard on a sealing vessel east of Newfoundland, April 2009. Photo: Pierre-Yves Daoust.

Some years ago, I had the privilege and pleasure to be on a sealing vessel for a week with skipper Eldred Woodford from Herring Neck, Newfoundland and Labrador.

One day, when we were far offshore, an oil pump of some sort broke down. Don’t ask me for more details; I know nothing about mechanics. This meant that Eldred had to reconnect a bunch of things from the steering wheel in the wheelhouse to another steering wheel on the top deck outside.

This is when I realized, who on earth am I with my few university degrees to brag about anything, when this man not only has to know how to navigate on the open sea and how to steer among ice floes during the seal hunt to avoid getting stuck, but also has to be a mechanic and an electrician all at once. As Eldred said at the time, there is no hardware store nearby to help you out when you are roughly 60 nautical miles offshore or when you are far out in the bush, for that matter.

I hope this gives you an idea of why sealers, trappers and hunters can have allies in some unexpected places and why someone like me, in his ivory tower that is a university, always enjoys the company of people who spend so much time on the land. I respect animals, I respect the environment, and I also respect all people. This has served me well over the years.


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