The 2010 Canadian Harp Seal hunt was the smallest one in recent years with 6,000 seal hunters choosing to stay at home. And now due to a warm winter and lack of sea ice, the sealers that did venture out are returning early. But even with an unproductive season, this year’s hunt was particularly brutal for the seal pups.
Animal activists like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Humane Society International/Canada that fight against seal hunts, are in agreement that the best way to stop the seal industry is through financial pressure. And this season proved their point.
Earlier this year the European Union banned all seal imports and this has critically impacted the market for buyers. Seal pelts that once sold for $100 or more, now bring in $15 – 20.
This led to less than 50 ships participating in the hunt. In 2009 there were 306 ships and up to 500 ships have launched in past years.
But the Canadian government and the sealers don’t plan to go down without a fight. And in an act of defiance over the ban in Europe, Canada’s Fisheries Minister Gail Shea increased the quota of Harp Seals this year from 280,000 to 330,000.
“This government is united in its support of the thousands of coastal Canadian sealers who rely on the seal hunt for their livelihood,” Shea said in an interview with AFP last month.
Canada also plans to change its focus from seal fur to seal meat and the country’s Fur Institute will soon market a seal cookbook that ironically was published by the European Union three years ago. The Fur Institute also has plans to expand the sale of seal fur in Asia.
Brutality of the Hunt
Both IFAW and Humane Society International/Canada documented that although the hunt was small this year, it was particularly brutal and the sealers did not abide by the Marine Mammal Regulations that protect the seal pups from suffering.
Seal hunters are prohibited from killing newborn pups that are between 12 – 14 days old. They are identified by their solid white coats. The infants become prey when this coat begins to shed during their first month of life. The statistics show that 97 percent of the Harp Seals are killed while they are under 3 months of age and the majority are less than 1 month old.
The Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada approved a system for killing the pups that they compare to “as humane a method as used in commercial slaughterhouses.” That of course says a mouthful about the suffering endured by the infant Harp Seals. The method endorses a combination of shooting the seal to injure it and then clubbing it to death with a weapon called a Hakapik.
Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society said in her blog, “Sealers are flagrantly violating the few inadequate rules that exist to protect seals. There were no government enforcement officers in the area we were filming. One baby seal was shot in the face, and was shaking her head in agony as she crawled across the ice for several minutes…before a sealer clubbed her. Sealers were not checking to ensure seals were unconscious before impaling them on hooks…and throwing them onto boats. In the 12 years I have observed the commercial seal slaughter in Canada, this is some of the worst cruelty I have witnessed.”
Both activist groups know the seal industry is a “shadow of its former self.” But still tens of thousands of seal pups were slaughtered. They continue to ask supporters to put pressure on the industry by boycotting fur and other seal products.
Click Here to Sign the Petition to Stop Seal Hunting. (Provided by Care2 member.)
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