The Russians Lead on Seals
An Animal Rights Article from

March 2009

When today's Russia, hardly a model of heightened sensitivities, decides its seal hunt is too barbaric to continue, the end is near for Canada's sealers.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the ban on killing very young seals would be extended to all of the animals. It's a "bloody industry," he said, and the hunt should have been banned long ago.

Canada's government still defends the hunt on the ice off the Atlantic coast. There are lots of seals, hunters in a poor part of the country need the money and it's not much more cruel than a typical slaughterhouse, the government says.

There's great debate about the economic impact, but it's likely somewhere in the $7 million range.

Clubbing animals to death on the ice might be humane, but it doesn't look it. The 2008 regulations were amended to require sealers to slit the arteries under the seals' flippers after clubbing them; that was to avoid any risk they would be skinned alive, but it highlights the grisly nature of the hunt.

It's galling for hunters from Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands to be lectured by pop stars and politicians who have never witnessed the hunt about something they have done all their lives. And they have been the victim of misleading campaigns against the seal hunt.

But now the European Union is considering a ban on seal fur, a change Canada is lobbying against. The publicity itself means markets will dwindle. Prices are expected to be low this year.

And now Russia, with its gangs and crimes and assassinated journalists, has decided the seal hunt is inhumane and must be banned.

There comes a time when a traditional practice becomes too great a liability to continue. For the Canadian seal hunt, that time is now. The hunt, by most standards, is cruel. The potential damage to Canada's image and economy is significant.

Help the sealers, by all means. But don't let Russia set a higher standard for humane treatment of animals.

To see images of seal hunts, visit our image gallery.

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