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April 13, 2016

As Canada’s Commercial Seal Hunt Begins, HSI Witnesses Slaughter on the Ice

China urged to help stop the killing by banning commercial seal product trade

Humane Society International/Canada

Canada’s annual commercial seal hunt, in which tens of thousands of harp seals – most just a few weeks of age – are being shot, clubbed and skinned for their fur, has begun. Humane Society International/Canada is the only organisation bearing witness to the slaughter and shining a global spotlight on the suffering that the commercial sealing industry doesn’t want the world to see.

HSI’s has gathered new photographic evidence taken today of the slaughter of baby seals.

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director for HSI/Canada, said: “This is my 18th year bearing witness to the commercial seal slaughter. It is devastating to watch the suffering of these seal pups but we do so knowing that our evidence is shutting this industry down. The suffering of these defenseless pups is utterly heartbreaking. Sealers are shooting and clubbing every baby seal they see and the ice is slick with blood. One baby seal was shot in the neck and from 1,000 feet in the air we could see her still moving as the blood poured out of her. With more and more countries refusing to buy commercial seal products, the primary reasons the slaughter continues today are government subsidies and the false promise that China will emerge as a major market for seal fur. Humane Society International is calling on China to set the record straight and help put right an international wrong by banning commercial trade in seal products.”

Urge the Chinese government to stop their trade in products of commercial seal hunts.

So far, 35 countries have banned trade in commercial seal products for animal welfare and conservation reasons, including the 28 European Union member states, the United States and Russia. With dwindling world markets for seal products, the Canadian sealing industry is banking on China to import the seal fur, oil and meat that other nations refuse to buy. HSI and Chinese animal group Beijing Capital Animal Welfare Association, have joined forces to urge China take a strong stand for seals by prohibiting commercial trade in their products.

In the absence of global markets for seal products, the Canadian and Newfoundland governments heavily subsidize the commercial sealing industry, with public funds being used to buy seal skins that have few international buyers. In August last year, Canadian seal processing company PhocaLux International, which owns a factory in China manufacturing seal products, opened China’s first and only Always in Vogue store in Shenyang, northern China, selling seal fur goods. 


  • With more than two million seals killed since 2002, Canada’s commercial seal hunt is considered the largest slaughter of marine mammals on Earth.
  • The seals are killed for their fur and, because the skins of young pups are most valuable, 98 percent are less than three months old at the time of slaughter.
  • Veterinarians have called the methods of commercial sealing “inherently inhumane” and argue that prohibiting seal product trade is the most effective way to reduce the killing.
  • The United States, the 28 countries of the European Union, Mexico, Russia and Taiwan have all prohibited trade in products of commercial seal hunts.
  • In 2013 and 2014, the World Trade Organization twice upheld the rights of nations to prohibit seal product trade for animal welfare reasons.
  • HSI is now the only NGO documenting the commercial seal hunt in Canada and the evidence we gather each year is crucial for keeping seal product markets closed.
  • HSI supports a fair transition program for the few hundred commercial fishermen who continue to hunt seals between other fishing seasons.

Media contacts:

Canada: Christopher Pare, cpare@hsi.org, 514 395-2914

UK: Wendy Higgins, whiggins@hsi.org, +44(0)7989 972 423

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