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January 13, 2012

Chinese Advocates Protest Canadian Seal Trade at Fur and Leather Expo

Humane Society International

  • The activists unfurled a banner. Zhang Dan

by Peter Li

On the heels of Russia’s announcement that it would prohibit trade in harp seal fur, Chinese animal advocates have staged another protest on the same issue. This latest action was meant to send one more message to the Canadian government and sealing industry that China is no market for products of such cruelty.

Raising awareness

The Chinese demonstration took place inside the annual Beijing International Fur and Leather Product Expo after activists were alerted to the announced attendance of a Canadian seal product marketing firm.

Take action now to stop the slaughter

At the event, the protesters distributed 250 copies of an open letter [PDF] addressed to the Canadian government and sealing industry urging them to drop any plan to trade seal products with China. They also handed out 40 copies of a photo journal describing—in graphic terms and shocking images—Canada’s terrible seal slaughter.

In front of the North American booth, where seal skins were advertised, the Chinese unfurled a banner that read “Chinese People Do Not Welcome Canadian Seal Products.” Their presentation was witnessed by Beijing-based local and national media.

A noticeable absence

This exposition, which draws companies from across China and around the world, is the biggest of its kind held in China every year. In 2011, Canada sent a huge delegation headed by then-Fisheries Minister Gail Shea in an attempt to open China’s market to seal skins and seal meat. Canada set up special booths to showcase seal pelts and products made from them.

In response, Chinese activists launched a nationwide campaign against the Canadian seal trade, with participants from 15 provinces joining by the end of last year. HSI twice sent representatives to meet with Chinese trade officials in Beijing, urging the Chinese government to reject Canadian seal trade proposals. Protest letters, petitions and special journals were mailed to Canadian diplomatic missions in China.

“This year’s Beijing International Fur and Leather Product Expo was very different,” commented one of the protesters. Unlike at last year’s Expo, when Canada’s sealing industry was impressively represented, in 2012 there was not even one booth devoted entirely to Canada’s seal products. In 2011, Canadian official backing was evident everywhere; this year, the protesters did not see any trace of Canadian official involvement.

“We shall protest as long as seal products are still promoted,” said Zhang Dan, an activist from Beijing. “We won’t quit until Canada drops its unrealistic and unpopular seal trade plan.”

Continuing progress

HSI commends the efforts of these dedicated animal advocates as they build a new China that embraces the value of compassion for the weak and disadvantaged. We will continue to work with them in their efforts to promote cultural progress to go along with their nation's growing economy. Join our campaign by taking action now.

Dr. Peter Li is HSI's China Specialist.