Respect for Animals

October 31st, 2006



Many people remember the high profile campaigns against the clubbing of baby seals back in the 70 s and 80 s but few people realise that the number of young seals being killed is now greater than when the campaigns began. The 2003 seal hunt will see over 350,000 seals killed – the largest seal hunt for over 400 years.

In 1983 the European Union banned the import of products made from whitecoat harp and blueback hooded seal pups.

As a result, in 1987, a Canadian Royal Commission recommended that the killing of these very young seal pups be prohibited. In 1993, Canada s Marine Mammal Regulations were amended to prohibit the trade in whitecoat and blueback seal pups – this was intended to prevent the killing of these seals. In reality these measures just caused the goal posts to be moved.

It now means that a harp seal can be legally killed as soon as it begins to shed its whitecoat, around 10 or 12 days after birth. Hooded seals can be killed when they shed their blueback pelt at about 15-16 months of age. Products from this slaughter are not covered by the EU ban and the fur trade, amongst others, has been quick to exploit this loophole. Many leading designers use seal fur in their collections and seal meat and oil is imported into Europe.

The annual seal hunt in Canada has been subject to management since the 1970 s but the annual quota has been based more on market demand than scientific evidence. It has steadily increased since the mid 90 s during which time new federal subsidies have encouraged sealers to kill more seals. In 2002 the number of harp seals killed exceeded the quota by 25,000 and during 2003/4/5 just short of 1 million seals were killed.

The killing of what most would consider still to be baby seals is offensive in itself but the methods of slaughter are horrific. Early in the season harp seals are still killed with clubs or hakapiks, later in the season they are shot both on the ice and in the water. Because much of the seal hunt takes place on shifting ice floes, or from a moving boat, many animals may be killed (or fatally injured) but not retrieved. As the quota is based on landed catch the number of seals actually killed is far greater.

The Canadian Government claims that the commercial seal hunt is humane and well regulated but independent veterinarians disagree. In 2001 a team observed sealers at work and examined carcasses left on the ice. They found that 79% of sealers did not check to see if an animal was dead before skinning it, in 40% of cases the animal had to be struck or shot a second time and that a staggering 42% of seal s were probably conscious when skinned. Despite evidence of this cruelty being passed to the Canadian authorities no prosecutions have resulted.

When deciding upon the number of seals to be killed, the Canadian Government is ignoring the change in weather patterns which are causing the ice in the main sealing areas to melt early and the pups to drown as they are unable to swim until they are much older. There is nothing to suggest that these changes may not be permanent and the effect that this could have on the harp seal population is unknown. Their response to most of the baby seals drowning in 2002 was to let the seal hunt overrun its quota as prices for seal products were higher than usual.

The Canadian Government blames the seals for the collapse of N Atlantic cod stocks but this is down to human over-fishing and its own mis-management of the fisheries. In fact seals eat the N Atlantic cod s main predator so if there were no seals the situation would be much worse.

On November 4 2003 an adjournment debate on the hunt was held in parliament and the Minister who responded for the government stated that the UK government does not think that clubbing is a humane method of killing seals and disputed the need for a cull. The UK government has contacted the Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin stating its opposition to the continuation of the hunt.

Please write to your MP urging him or her to write to the Minister for Trade responsible for the hunt, Ian Pearson MP, asking him to extend the ban that currently exists on some seal products to ALL seal products. Please also urge your MP to sign Early Day Motion 237 Commercial Seal Hunts and the Importation of Seal Products into the UK. The address for your MP is The House of Commons, London SW1A OAA, please include a copy of the Early Day Motion which can be downloaded by clicking here. You can also contact your MP via where you can also find the name of your MP if you need to. For more information on how to help please visit







This is the largest, most brutal marine mammal slaughter on the planet and brings shame upon Canada. Respect for Animals is committed to help bring an end to this barbarism.

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