New killing methods won’t stop cruelty of Canada’s seal cull

The Canadian Government has proposed new regulations governing the country’s annual mass cull of around 350,000 seals which begins again this March. The new regulations have been introduced in an attempt to make the hunt appear more humane, with the threat of a European Community ban on all seal products an increasing possibility this year.

However, the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG) does not believe that the proposed minor changes to killing methods will do anything to change the public’s perceptions of the Canadian seal hunt, or the organisations determination to stop it.

Canadian seal hunt

One measure proposes to ban the use the spiked club or ‘hakapik’ to kill seals over a year old unless they have been shot first.  However, with less than one percent of seals killed more than a year old, this restriction will make little difference. The use of the hakapik has led to persistent allegations that many seal pups may still be conscious after clubbing and are thus consequently skinned alive.

Around 90% of seals killed are shot, many in the water that have to be gaffed and hauled aboard the sealing boats causing untold suffering. Under the new proposals the sealers will have to ensure the skull is broken and the animals are bled for a full minute before they can begin to skin them.

Andy Ottaway, Campaign Director of SPAG has said:

“Tweaking the regulations on killing methods will do nothing to diminish public anger and revulsion at this brutal and cruel hunt. Hundreds of thousands of seal pups will still be shot, gaffed and clubbed, with many animals still skinned alive, and that is totally unacceptable in a civilized and compassionate world”.

Harp seal and pup

The Canadian seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world with an average of between 270,000-335,000 seals annually. The seals are killed primarily for their fur, but other products such as seal oil is sold increasingly as a ‘health supplement’. However, SPAG believes that the high levels of industrial contaminants such as PCB’s and mercury, which build up in the blubber of marine mammals such as whales and seals, poses a serious risk to human health.

The Seal Protection Action Group has been campaigning for a comprehensive EU import ban on all seal products for several years. Unfortunately, although a ban is increasingly likely this year, there is increasing concern that under current proposals seal imports will still be permitted from hunts that meet set criteria for humane killing. However, monitoring and enforcing any standards would be extremely difficult if not impossible.

Andy Ottaway of SPAG has said:

“The Canadian seal hunt is a hideously cruel, environmental atrocity and nothing the Canadian Government can do will alter that fact other than ending it once and for all. The damage it does to Canada’s image and reputation is incalculable”

Although the UK Government is supporting an EU ban on all seal product imports, SPAG is concerned over the woefully inadequate protection afforded to the UK’s globally important populations of common and grey seals. An estimated 5,000 seals are shot in Scottish waters alone each year by the Scottish salmon industry with scientists recently reporting a ‘frightening’ decline in common seals.

PRESS ENQUIRIES: Please click here to download the official Media Release

For further information about our campaign to protect seals in Canada and how you can help – please click here.

For information about our campaign to protect seals in the UK and how you can help – please click here.

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