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March 19, 2009

Humane Society International: Canada Should Follow Russia's Lead; Ban Commercial Seal Slaughter

Humane Society International/Canada

MONTREAL — With Canada's annual slaughter of baby seals scheduled to begin next week, Humane Society International calls upon the Canadian government to follow Russia's example and ban the commercial seal slaughter. Russian government ministers announced a ban Wednesday on the killing of seals younger than one year old, citing public support for ending the killing as its primary reason for the ban.

"The Russian government listened to its citizens and ended their seal hunt," Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International/Canada, said. "We call on Stephen Harper to act now on behalf of the overwhelming majority of Canadians, and put a final end to the Canadian seal slaughter."

As was the case in Russia, Canada's commercial seal slaughter targets baby seals, and is demonstrably cruel. Ninety-seven percent of the seals killed in Canada are younger than three months old, and most are just one month old or younger at the time of slaughter. Veterinarians, independent journalists and animal-welfare observers continue to report unacceptable cruelty at the Canadian seal hunt, including seal pups cut open while conscious; seals showing responses to pain after being impaled on metal hooks and dragged across the ice; and wounded seals left to suffer in agony. Veterinary experts have repeatedly concluded that Canada's commercial seal hunt cannot be humane because of the environmental conditions in which it operates and the speed at which the killing must be conducted.

Seal hunters in Canada are commercial fishermen who earn, on average, a tiny fraction of their annual incomes from killing seals. Even in Newfoundland, where about 90 percent of sealers live, the slaughter accounts for less than one-half of 1 percent of the GDP.

The European Parliament will vote in just a few weeks on a proposal to ban trade in seal products in the European Union, potentially removing one of the most important markets for Canadian seal products.

Humane Society International will be on the ice floes to document the killing when Canada's commercial seal hunt opens next week.

Facts about Canada's Commercial Seal Hunt:

  • Canada's commercial seal hunt is the world's largest slaughter of marine mammals, with more than 1 million seals killed in the past four years.
  • Each year, suffering is documented at the commercial seal hunt, including seals cut open while responding to pain, conscious seals impaled on steel spikes and dragged across the ice floes, and wounded seals left to suffer.
  • Veterinary experts say the commercial seal hunt is inherently inhumane because of the physical environment in which the seal hunt operates and the speed at which it must be conducted.
  • Ninety-seven percent of the seals killed in the commercial seal hunt are younger than three months old at the time of slaughter. Many have yet to take their first swim or eat their first solid meal when they are killed.
  • Sealers are commercial fishermen, who earn on average less than five percent of their incomes from killing seals — the remainder from fisheries including crab, shrimp and lobster.
  • In 2008, the landed value of the seal hunt in Canada was less than $7 million.
  • Canada exports nearly two-thirds of its seafood to the United States producing $2.5 billion annually for the Canadian economy. In 2005, The Humane Society of the United States launched a boycott of Canadian seafood products as a means of pressuring the Canadian fishing industry and government to stop the seal hunt.
  • Since the ProtectSeals seafood boycott was launched, more than 600,000 individuals and more than 5,000 grocery stores and restaurants have pledged to avoid some or all Canadian seafood until the commercial seal hunt is ended for good.
  • In recent years, 10 countries have either banned their trade in seal products or announced their intentions to do so. The EU is currently considering a prohibition on seal product trade.
  • Nigel Barker, noted photographer and judge from "America's Next Top Model," is a spokesperson for the campaign. Barker accompanied HSI/HSUS staff to the ice floes this past spring to photograph the seal nursery and document the hunt.

For more information about the campaign to save Canadian seals, please visit bansealtrade.eu.

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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International — one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than 11 million members and constituents globally — on the web at www.hsicanada.ca. 

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