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June 14, 2011

HSl Canada Calls for Immediate Action to End the Seal Hunt with the Release of Disturbing New Footage

Humane Society International/Canada

  • The commercial seal hunt must end. Frank Loftus/The HSUS

TORONTO—Humane Society International/Canada, joined by leading international veterinary expert Dr. Andy Butterworth, MRCVS, held a news conference to release new video evidence of the cruelty at the 2011 commercial seal slaughter, which reveals flagrant violations of Canadian law and accepted guidelines on international humane killing standards endorsed by leading veterinarians. HSI Canada is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take immediate action to end Canada’s commercial seal slaughter.

“The number of sealers participating in the slaughter is at an all-time low, yet the cruelty is clearly increasing,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada. “This year, we filmed conscious baby seals impaled on metal hooks and dragged across the ice, wounded seal pups left to suffer in agony, and seals shot repeatedly in the open water. One seal was shot, impaled on a hook, dragged across the ice and hoisted onto a sealing vessel, where he cried out from a pile of bloody skinned carcasses.”

“I have reviewed Humane Society International’s new video evidence from the 2011 seal slaughter, and I am shocked by the extreme cruelty I witnessed," said Dr. Andy Butterworth, MRCVS, a leading U.K veterinary researcher in marine mammals. “It is evident that these seals suffered profound distress and pain. This evidence supports the belief of many veterinarians that Canada’s commercial seal slaughter is inherently inhumane.”

“This kind of killing is clearly a violation of Canada’s animal protection laws and the criminal code of Canada," said Nick Wright, LL.B., a campaigner with HSI Canada and the founding director of Lawyers for Animal Welfare. “If the Canadian government cannot enforce the few, inadequate sealing laws that exist when there are just a few vessels operating, it only emphasizes the overwhelming cruelty that must occur when there are hundreds of vessels active.”

Record low sea ice formation off Canada’s east coast due to climate change has resulted in exceptionally high seal pup mortality in 2011 and many recent years. Yet instead of taking action to protect the seals, the Canadian government authorized sealers to kill 468,000 harp, hood and grey seals this year.

The United States and European Union—Canada’s two largest trading partners—have prohibited their trade in seal products. Prices for seal fur remain very low in Canada, and most sealers chose not to participate in the commercial seal hunt in 2011. The total harp seal kill as of the closing date of the slaughter was just over 38,000.

A boycott of Canadian seafood that will continue until the seal slaughter ends for good has already cost the Canadian economy many times the value of the sealing industry. More than 5,500 establishments and over 675,000 people have pledged to avoid some or all Canadian seafood until the seal hunt ends for good.

A recently released 2011 Ipsos Reid poll conducted prior to this year’s seal slaughter, revealed that most Newfoundland residents support a measure that would effectively end the commercial seal hunt, along with a federal buyout of the sealing industry. Polling (Ipsos 2010) also shows that support for the end of the hunt may extend to sealers themselves, with half of Newfoundland sealers holding an opinion supporting a federal industry buyout under which sealers would be compensated for their licenses, and funds invested in economic alternatives in the communities involved.

* Video footage can be seen here.

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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