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April 14, 2015

Sir Paul McCartney Calls for an End to Canada’s Brutal Commercial Seal Hunt

Humane Society International on location to film the killing to protect vital EU trade ban

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Sir Paul McCartney and HSI/Canada's Rebecca Aldworth during Seal Watch 2006 in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Rolf Hicker

Sir Paul McCartney has issued an impassioned appeal for an end to the senseless slaughter of baby harp seals taking place off Canada’s east coast. The Canadian government has authorized the killing of up to 468,000 harp, hooded and grey seals. The seals—almost all just a few weeks of age—are shot, clubbed and skinned for their fur despite dwindling global demand for seal products. Humane Society International is the only organization on the scene to bear witness to the 2015 commercial seal hunt.

McCartney said: "Canada's brutal commercial seal hunt has begun, and once again thousands of baby seals will be shot and bludgeoned to make fur products that nobody wants or needs. The European Union's trade ban on commercial seal hunt products has already helped save more than one million baby seals from a horrible fate. But we need to ensure the EU keeps this strong ban intact. That's why my friends at Humane Society International are once again setting out for the ice flows for the grim task of catching this horror on film. Their videos of the bloody seal slaughter provide the only vital evidence to demonstrate year after year that these seals are dying a horrible death for their fur. As HSI bears witness to this cruelty, I wish them well and hope that this will be the last year that Canada's ice turns red." 

The iconic musician, who visited the harp seal nursery with HSI in 2006, is also highlighting the importance of maintaining a strong European Union ban on commercial seal product trade. Following public outcry at the animal suffering, the EU banned trade in products of commercial seal hunts in 2009. While the World Trade Organization has twice upheld the EU’s right to ban this trade, the EU must now tweak the Regulation to bring it into compliance with international trade requirements.

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Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada, said: “This will be the 17th year that I have witnessed the seal slaughter. The suffering I have seen is impossible to forget. These baby animals are dying a violent death for fur products that nobody is buying. If the killing happened in view of the public, it would have been shut down decades ago. But it occurs far offshore, and that is why it is so important that HSI is here to film what happens. HSI is committed to protecting these seals and we won’t stop until peace is restored to the ice floes.”

Global markets for seal products are closing fast. The EU, the United States, Switzerland, Mexico, Taiwan and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia have all stopped their trade in some or all products of commercial seal hunts. Chinese authorities have also blocked attempts to import seal meat into China. This has caused a dramatic decline in prices for seal products in Canada, convincing most sealers not to participate in the slaughter and sparing more than one million seal pups from a horrible fate.  

Facts:

  • The 2009 European Union ban on trade in products of commercial seal hunts contains a clear exemption for products of traditional Inuit sealing.
  • HSI does not oppose Inuit subsistence sealing. Our campaign seeks to end the industrial scale, commercial slaughter of baby seals for their fur in Atlantic Canada.
  • Canadian government reports confirm that more than 98 percent of seals killed in Canada’s annual slaughter are less than three months of age.
  • Veterinary reports consistently reveal high levels of animal suffering in commercial sealing, and leading veterinary experts have concluded that Canada’s commercial slaughter is inherently inhumane.
  • Evidence gathered every year by HSI shows that many seals suffer considerably, including conscious pups impaled on steel hooks, dragged across the ice and cut open, and wounded seals left to suffer in agony and escape beneath the water’s surface, where they die slowly. HSI footage has played a vital role in convincing nations to stop their trade in seal products.
  • National polling consistently shows most Canadians want the commercial seal slaughter to end, and oppose the Canadian government using tax dollars to promote the sealing industry.
  • Polling shows half of Newfoundland sealers and the majority of Newfoundlanders, holding an opinion, support a federal sealing industry buyout (Ipsos Reid 2010).

Media contact: Christopher Paré - 514 395-2914, cpare@hsi.org

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