A British animal rights campaigner has vowed to go to prison in Canada rather than pay a fine if he is convicted of breaking rules governing filming of the country's annual seal cull.
Mark Glover, campaigns director of the Nottingham-based Respect for Animals group, will appear before a judge in the remote Magdalen Islands on Thursday with four other activists to face a charge that they breached a 10-metre exclusion zone while filming hunters shooting and clubbing seals on ice floes in the Gulf of St Lawrence.
The annual cull of up to 350,000 seals by around 2,000 hunters has been the subject of a long-running battle by animal rights groups seeking a ban. The Canadian government insists the hunt is "tightly regulated and humane" but opponents claim the use of sharpened clubs, hakapiks, to kill seals is cruel, with many hunters failing to ensure the animals are dead before skinning them.
Images of seals including white-coated pups being killed with a blow to the head on blood-stained snow and ice have provided powerful ammunition in a worldwide campaign against the practice. The EU is currently considering whether to impose a ban on the import and sale of seal products.
Mr Glover, who was part of an international team filming the main cull in the Gulf of St Lawrence in March 2006 from inflatable boats, faces a fine of up to C$100,000 (£50,000) if he is found guilty of infringing the terms of a licence granted to follow the hunt. Under a proposed new law, anyone convicted of such an offence would also be banned from observing the hunt for five years.
Speaking before he boarded a flight to Canada for the court hearing, Mr Glover, claimed the arrest of his group was a deliberate attempt to stop them filming. He said: "We were getting a lot of film that would have been embarrassing to the Canadians given the level of cruelty that we were witnessing ... It was a politically motivated attempt to stop us."