Frequently Asked Questions about Canada's Seal Slaughter
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Frequently Asked Questions about Canada's Seal Slaughter

 March 2008

How Many Seals Are Killed Annually?
 
In 2005, the government quota for the number of seals who could be killed was 320,000, and in 2006, it was raised by 5,000 because of government reports that the seal population is "flourishing." However, scientists argue that the Canadian government failed to take into account changes in the environment, like food availability, toxins, and global warming (which may adversely affect the populations of harp seals, because they give birth on ice floes) when setting "sustainable" hunting quotas.

Are Baby Seals Still Being Killed?

It is legal to kill seal pups when they are about 12 days old, or as soon as they have molted their white natal fur. During last year's hunt, almost all the seals killed were 3 months old or younger. Many had not learned how to swim or eaten their first solid meal. They are helpless and have no escape from their violent end.

How Are the Seals Killed?
 
Sealers bludgeon seals with clubs and "hakapiks" (clubs with a metal hook on the end), drag conscious seals across the ice floes with boat hooks, and toss dead and dying animals into heaps and leave their carcasses to rot because there is no market for their meat. Seals are also shot, but bludgeoning is preferred, because pelt buyers deduct money for every bullet hole in a seal's skin. Veterinarians who studied a past hunt concluded that the hunters failed to comply with Canada's basic animal welfare standards and that 42 percent of the seals appeared to have been skinned alive.

Read an eyewitness account from last year's hunt. Rebecca Aldworth, a native Newfoundlander, who for years has worked to stop the seal slaughter, described this scene during last year's hunt:

"A movement catches my eye, and I realize with horror that a clubbed baby seal is still conscious. She is writhing around on the ice in pain, moving her flippers. She lies next to another seal who has been killed, vacant eyes staring up, blood already frozen in the ice under her mouth. It is a macabre scene—the dead and the dying huddled together here in the rain."

Aldworth says that the seal "is trying to crawl and making anguished sounds. … She is trying so hard to live, and I know there is no hope for her. She has her eyes tightly shut, as if to keep out the sight of the dead seals around her."

Do Harp Seals Contribute to the Depletion of Cod Populations?

The scientific community has concluded that the cause of the depletion of fish stocks off Canada's East Coast is human over-fishing. Blaming seals for disappearing fish is a convenient way for the fishing industry to divert attention from its irresponsible and environmentally destructive practices. Harp seals, who are the primary target of the hunt, eat many different species-—only 3 percent of a harp seal's diet is commercially fished cod—and they also eat many cod predators.

Is the Seal Hunt Necessary for Canada's Economy?
 
The Canadian fishing industry is propped up by millions of dollars in subsidies every year. Local fishers make one-twentieth of their income from seal hunting and the rest from commercial fisheries. Even in Newfoundland, where 90 percent of sealers live, revenues from the hunt account for less than 1 percent of the province's economy. Nor is sealing a livelihood for native tribes; most sealers are commercial fishers who use large boats to break through the ice to reach the baby seals.

International boycotts in response to the slaughter further weaken the "economic" argument. Italy and Greenland recently banned imports of seal pelts, and more than 400 restaurants and companies have pledged to boycott some or all Canadian seafood until the seal hunt is ended.

You Can Help

Write to the Canada Tourism Commission and tell it you will not visit Canada as long as the bloody seal hunt continues:

Michele McKenzie
President and CEO
Canada Tourism Commission
55 Metcalfe St., Ste. 600
Ottawa
Ontario K1P 6LS
Canada

Boycott all fur. As long as there is a demand for fur-trimmed jackets, fur boots, and fur coats, seals will continue to be beaten bloody on the ice.

 

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