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October 2, 2009

Humane Society International Launches the ProtectSeals European Boycott of Canadian Seafood

Humane Society International/UK

On the heels of the European Union's ban on the commercial trade in seal fur, Humane Society International is launching the ProtectSeals European boycott of Canadian seafood. By encouraging restaurants, chefs and consumers to boycott Canadian seafood, HSI intends to convince the Canadian fishing industry and government to stop the commercial seal slaughter.

With more than 1 million baby seals killed in the past five years alone, Canada's commercial seal kill is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on Earth. The annual slaughter is an off-season activity conducted by commercial fishermen from Canada's East Coast who earn, on average, just a small fraction of their annual income from killing seals.

"Expanding the boycott of Canadian seafood to Europe is a logical next step in our campaign to end Canada's commercial seal slaughter," said Mark Glover, director of HSI/UK. "The European Union took the historic step of banning its trade in products of commercial seal hunts. Now, by not purchasing Canadian seafood products, European citizens are showing their support for putting an end to the bloody slaughter of baby seals."

HSI's American partner, The Humane Society of the United States, launched the Canadian seafood boycott in the U.S. in 2005. To date, the ProtectSeals boycott has gained the support of more than 5,500 establishments and 650,000 individuals. With the help of European establishments, HSI hopes to increase these numbers—as the European Union is the third largest market for Canadian seafood—and bring an end to the inhumane slaughter of innocent seals. Europeans are encouraged to sign the pledge, and HSI Friday launched a new web site to collect pledge signatures.

To celebrate the launch of the boycott, HSI and The HSUS will bring "A Sealed Fate?," a travelling exhibition by Nigel Barker, world-renowned fashion photographer and judge on "America's Next Top Model,"to locations throughout Europe. Barker's photographs and documentary video provide an intimate look at the short lives of baby harp seals victimized by Canada's annual commercial seal kill.

Launched in New York City in July 2008, "A Sealed Fate?" has since traveled across the United States and Canada, including a one-month exhibition in the lobby of the United Nations. On 4 October, "A Sealed Fate?" will debut in Brussels at Bozar, with a private press reception, co-sponsored by GAIA, followed by a public viewing. The exhibit will then travel to Amsterdam at Bethaniënklooster, with a private press reception, co-sponsored by Bont Voor Dieren on the evening of 6 October followed by a public viewing on 7 October.

Facts about Canada's commercial seal kill:

  • HSI also is forming a coalition of European animal protection groups to expand the ProtectSeals boycott of Canadian seafood.
  • Canada's commercial seal kill is the world's largest slaughter of marine mammals, with more than 1 million seals killed in the past five years alone.
  • Each year, suffering is documented at the commercial seal slaughter: Seals are cut open while responding to pain, conscious seals are impaled on metal spikes and dragged across the ice floes, and wounded seals are left to suffer.
  • Veterinary experts say the commercial seal slaughter is inherently inhumane because of the physical environment in which the seal kill operates and the speed at which it must be conducted.
  • Ninety-seven percent of the seals killed in the commercial seal slaughter are less than 3 months old when they are slaughtered. Many have yet to take their first swim or eat their first solid meal when they are killed.
  • Sealers are commercial fishermen, who earn, on average, less than 5 percent of their incomes from killing seals. The remainder of their income comes from fishing crab, shrimp and lobster.
  • Canada exports more than 80 percent of its seafood annually, and the European Union is the third largest market for Canadian seafood.  
  • In May 2009, the European Union banned its trade in products of commercial seal hunts. In doing so, the EU joins the United States, which has prohibited seal product trade since 1972, and a number of other countries who have followed suit in recent years.
  • Nigel Barker, noted photographer and judge on "America's Next Top Model," is a spokesperson for the campaign. Barker accompanied HSI to the ice floes in spring 2008 to photograph the seal nursery and document the kill.


    For more information about the European campaign to save Canadian seals, please visit protectseals.eu.


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    Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — On the web at hsi.org.

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