The St. John’s Telegram reports that Apple has rejected an iPhone game based on the Canadian seal hunt due to “objectionable content.”

iSealClub, developed by Matthew Smyth of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, would have let iPhone gamers club cartoon seals, using the iPhone’s accelerometer to control the clubbing action. But Apple rejected the game for inclusion in the App Store.

Seal: to club, or not to club? Photo: Mike Baird
Seal: to club, or not to club? Photo: Mike Baird

With games such as Real Trophy Hunting (where you hunt other game, such as deer and bears) and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (which permits you to shoot police officers) already available in the App Store, one wonders what Apple considered sufficiently “objectionable” about the clubbing of seals to reject the app.

Oh, right: The seal hunt is an international political issue.

Due to an extensive media campaign by environmental and human-rights groups (like the Sea Shepherds), the Canadian seal hunt has been condemned by foreign governments, to the point where the European Union has banned the import of seal products in protest. Public opinion in Canada is split between those who believe the traditional seal hunt should be protected for cultural reasons, and those who believe it is a barbaric practice that should be stopped for humane reasons.

Smyth acknowledges that he chose to develop his first game based on the seal hunt as it’s of local interest (the seal hunt is a significant part of the Newfoundland economy) and because it would attract attention. He notes that, in the game, the player is penalized for clubbing baby seals (that still have their white coat), just as hunters are in real life.

Apple has neither confirmed nor denied that the political nature of the game was taken into account in its decision. Although the exact process Apple uses to decide which apps make it to the App Store and which don’t is somewhat of a mystery, it’s highly doubtful that Steve Jobs personally has a hand in the process. Still, for a game that, whatever the intention, tackles a sensitive political issue, one wonders if the vegan CEO may have been directly consulted.

PETA seems to think it’s possible, and sent Jobs a box of vegan-friendly seal-shaped chocolates to congratulate him in joining the ranks of world leaders condemning the seal hunt.

So it’s okay to eat chocolates shaped like seals, but not to club their cartoon representations. This is a very fine line, apparently.

In any case, for the time being at least, iPhone gamers will have to content themselves with shooting woodland animals and police officers, and leave clubbing seals to the professionals.

Photo Credit: Mike Baird

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