Atlantic Canada’s baby seal slaughter begins

Seal pups being targeted are just four weeks of age

Humane Society International

The Atlantic Canadian commercial slaughter of baby seals – in which tens of thousands of harp seals just a few weeks of age are shot and clubbed for their fur each year – opened today at 6 am. The mass killing follows a commercial slaughter of several thousand adult seals that was controversially authorized on March 28th while harp and hooded seals were likely still nursing their pups.

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada, stated:

“For 18 years, I’ve observed the Atlantic Canadian seal slaughter at close range and witnessed a level of suffering most adult people can’t bear to watch on video. Almost all of the seals killed are pups just a few weeks old and they are treated brutally. Baby seals are routinely shot and wounded, and left crawling through their own blood on the ice, crying out in agony. Many conscious, wounded baby seals are impaled on metal hooks and dragged onto the bloody decks of the boats where they are clubbed to death. Wounded seal pups also escape into the water, where they die slowly and painfully.

Canadian government scientists have repeatedly stated in recent weeks that harp seal pup mortality is increasing because of the devastating impacts of climate change on their sea ice habitat. Allowing an industrial scale hunt for a population of marine mammals already compromised by climate change is reprehensible. 

In defending, funding and promoting this senseless slaughter of baby seals, the Trudeau administration is completely out of step with Canadian values and the international community. Forty countries worldwide—including the United States, the European Union nations, Russia and China—prohibit trade in products of commercial seal hunts and/or protect their seal populations from commercial hunting. It is time our government joined the 21st century and ended the Atlantic Canadian commercial seal hunt, while investing in more humane, safe and sustainable jobs for our coastal communities.”


  • With more than two million seals killed since 2002, the Atlantic Canadian 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.
  • Climate change is fast destroying the sea ice habitat of the harp seals that are targeted in the Atlantic Canadian commercial seal hunt. Dr. Garry Stenson, section head of the marine mammal science branch with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, talked about the sea ice conditions and their impact on seals in an April 5, 2017 iPolitics article: “We’ve got an overall declining trend…a combination of overall less ice, sometimes in extent and thickness, but also increased storming. We’re seeing two things: fewer animals pupping and when they do, there is a high mortality with it…What we’ve found is that if we don’t include mortality due to ice, you can make huge errors in where you think the population is going. We’ve been seeing years where ice mortality is very high. We’ve seen dead pups that have drowned. It has a big impact on mortality.”
  • The United States, the 28 countries of the European Union, Mexico, Russia, Taiwan and Switzerland 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.
  • In the absence of global markets for products of commercial seal hunts, the Canadian and Newfoundland governments heavily subsidize Atlantic Canada’s sealing industry, with millions of dollars in public funds being used in recent years to purchase, process and market seal products that have few international buyers.
  • HSI supports a fair transition program for the few hundred Atlantic Canadian commercial fishermen who continue to hunt seals between other fishing seasons.
  • HSI takes no issue with the Inuit subsistence seal hunt that occurs in the Canadian arctic. While the vast majority of seals killed by Inuit sealers are consumed and traded locally, international prohibitions on seal product trade contain clear exemptions for Inuit seal products. In 2015, the Canadian government committed $5.7 million to assist Inuit sealers in certifying, branding and marketing their products.
  • Dr. Gary Stenson, Section Head for Marine Mammals for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, concluded in 2011 that harp seals do not appear to be harming cod stocks either through direct consumption or through competition for prey species.
  • HSI’s Protect Seals campaign has saved 2.5 million seals in the past decade.

Media Contact: Christopher Paré – office: 514 395-2914 x 206 / cell: 438 402-0643, email:

Photos and b-roll footage from last year’s commercial seal hunt is here. B-roll footage from previous years is here.

Learn More Button Inserter