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May 26, 2011

HSI: Landmark Poll Shows Most Newfoundlanders Support a Ban on Killing Baby Seals and a Seal Hunt Industry Buyout

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Too many lives cut short. John Ferguson

MONTREAL—Most Newfoundland residents are misinformed about the commercial seal hunt and a majority of them support a measure that would effectively end the kill. These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll [PDF] released by Humane Society International/Canada.

“Newfoundlanders are compassionate people, and this poll shows they overwhelmingly support a prohibition on the killing of baby seals younger than three months of age,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada. “But what most Newfoundlanders don’t know is that virtually all of the seals killed in the commercial seal slaughter are defenseless pups younger than three months old. Thankfully, the solid majority of Newfoundlanders are also willing to support a plan to end the slaughter, compensate fishermen, and develop economic alternatives. With polls now showing sealers, Newfoundlanders and Canadians support this new way forward, it is time the Canadian government showed leadership by ending the seal slaughter through a federal sealing industry buyout.”

The 2011 Ipsos Reid poll, conducted prior to this year’s seal hunt, revealed that, of Newfoundland residents:

  • 84 percent believe most seals are killed when they are at least three months of age in the commercial seal slaughter (with 55 percent believing the seals are at least one year of age when they are killed).
  • 72 percent believe there should be a prohibition on the killing of the seal pups less than three months of age (with 38 percent willing to extend that protection to seals one year of age or younger). A further eight percent believe seals should not be killed at all, regardless of age.
  • 53 percent support a federal government buyout of the commercial sealing industry, if that is what sealers want. This plan would involve the seal hunt being ended, fishermen compensated for lost income, and funds invested in economic alternatives in the communities affected.

Canadian government seal landings reports clearly show that more than 98 percent of the seals killed in the commercial seal slaughter are less than three months of age. Fisheries and Oceans Canada notes that sealers kill pups instead of adults because the skins of young harp seals are the most valuable.

The 2011 harp seal quota was the highest set since the Canadian government introduced quota management in 1971. Sealers are commercial fishermen who, on average, earn five percent of their annual incomes from killing seals—the remainder from seafood such as crab, shrimp and lobster. A global boycott of Canadian seafood, that will continue until the seal hunt ends, has already cost the Canadian economy many times the value of the seal slaughter.

A federal buyout of the commercial sealing industry would compensate fishermen for lost income as the seal slaughter is closed, and put public money into developing economic alternatives in the communities involved. Economists suggest such a plan would cost Canada less than the subsidies needed to continue the commercial sealing industry.

Telephone surveys were conducted between Jan. 3, 2011 and Jan. 16, 2011 with a sample size of 1,000, random selection from the Newfoundland general population. It was an equal split by region (St. John’s 500, rest of province 500) and gender.


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 hsicanada.ca.

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