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November 26, 2014

Sealing Industry Tries to Conceal Seal Hunt Cruelty

HSI/Canada says independent observation of commercial sealing is a guaranteed right under Canadian law

Humane Society International/Canada

  • The world is watching what happens here. Frank Loftus/HSI

MONTREAL—In testimony yesterday before the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Dion Dakins, executive director of Canada’s largest seal processor, called for a bill to effectively outlaw all independent observation of commercial sealing in Canada.

Humane Society International/Canada Executive Director Rebecca Aldworth stated:

“The commercial seal slaughter occurs in public space and thus observation of sealing is protected under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Though no other fishery requires observers to be permitted, observers of commercial sealing must be licensed by the federal government and are subject to exhaustive background checks and strict conditions of observation.

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"I have observed the commercial seal hunt for each of the past sixteen years. In that time, I have escorted countless independent scientists, journalists, parliamentarians and animal welfare experts to observe the slaughter firsthand. Our footage has been reviewed by multiple veterinary experts and has been used by the Canadian government to prosecute sealers violating regulations. Now, in an attempt to cover up the cruelty we are filming, the sealing industry wants to make independent observation of this slaughter illegal.

"Commercial sealing occurs far offshore in an area that is not readily accessible to the public and media. NGOs who observe commercial sealing perform a vital function: we are the eyes of the public and we facilitate journalists and scientists in gathering crucial evidence. If sealers are doing nothing wrong, then they should have no fear of NGOs filming them. The fact that this industry has tried for decades to stop our cameras rolling says everything.”

Facts:

  • NGOs have coordinated independent observation of commercial sealing since the 1960s.
  • For the past few decades, the federal government has required observers to be permitted to witness commercial sealing.
  • As a condition of their permits, observers on the ice are required to remain at least 10 meters away from commercial sealing activities and cannot in any way disrupt the seal hunt.
  • Changing sea ice conditions has made it impossible for helicopters to land on the ice in recent years, and observation of commercial sealing is now conducted by helicopter using high-powered cameras. Helicopters filming commercial sealing must remain at least 500 feet away from sealers.
  • For the past two years, HSI has been the only NGO coordinating independent observation of the commercial seal slaughter and has had just one helicopter filming the slaughter.
  • Video evidence, veterinary reports, scientific studies and media stories resulting from direct observation of commercial sealing have contributed to the closure of global markets for seal products.
  • The European Union, the United States, Russia, Taiwan, Mexico, Kazakhstan and Belarus have all banned some or all products of commercial seal hunts.
  • Prices for seal products in Canada have crashed as a result, and participation in the commercial seal hunt has dropped from thousands to a few hundred in recent years.
  • HSI/Canada is calling for the federal government to implement a fair buyout of the commercial sealing industry. In this plan, commercial sealing would be ended, sealers would receive immediate compensation, and economic alternatives would be developed.

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Media Contact: Christopher Pare – office: 514 395-2914 / cell: 438 402-0643, email: cpare@hsi.org

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