NOTE: This is a guest blog post from Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director at HSI Canada.
Each year, mother seals migrate to the sea ice off of Canada’s east coast to give birth to their pups. The harp seal nursery that forms is one of the most breathtaking and peaceful wildlife spectacles on earth, and tourists travel from all over the world to see it.
Tragically, days later, commercial fishermen armed with clubs and guns invade the nursery and beat and shoot to death every pup they find. In fact, more than 98% of the seals killed in Canada’s commercial seal hunt are pups under just three months of age. They are slaughtered for their skins, which are used for fashion. The killing causes immense suffering, with the baby seals routinely impaled on metal hooks, dragged across the ice and cut open while conscious.
Because the overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose the seal hunt, most of the seal furs are exported. As a result, many nations are taking action to stop the global trade in seal products, including our largest trading partners, the United States and the European Union. In 2011, the Russian Federation ended its trade in harp seal skins — the primary product of the commercial seal hunt.
While closing markets are fast removing the financial incentive for sealers to kill seals, climate change is providing an equaling compelling reason to stop the killing. Harp seals, like polar bears, are ice dependent animals, and their sea ice habitat is literally melting from under them, causing massive mortality.
Humane Society International is urging the Canadian government to protect the seals — and sealing communities — by implementing a buyout of the commercial sealing industry. This plan would involve the government ending the seal hunt, providing immediate compensation to sealers, and investing in economic alternatives. Polling shows about half of the sealers are already in support of this idea.
But instead of this constructive move forward, the Canadian government authorized a massive quota of 400,000 harp seals this year. Then the Newfoundland government provided $3.6 million in financing to a seal fur buyer to pay sealers to kill baby seals so their skins can be stockpiled.
Still, there is hope. Every day, people from all over the world are adding their voices to the call for a buyout of the Canadian sealing industry. The idea is rapidly gaining support within the federal government and the sealing communities. An end is in sight, but we need your help now more than ever.
Humane Society International is one of the only international animal protection organizations in the world working to protect all animals — including animals in laboratories, farm animals, companion animals, and wildlife — and our record of achievement demonstrates our dedication and effectiveness.
Photo courtesy of HSI.