Canadian waters stained red by baby seal cull

The seal hunt in eastern Canada is inhumane and environmentally unsustainable, anti-hunt campaigners said. They also argued that rather than protecting fishing stocks, the cull may reduce the numbers of some fish.

As hunters completed the second day of a hunt in which 320,000 baby harp seals are likely to be shot or clubbed, campaigners said the Canadian authorities had done insufficient research into the numbers of the and their potential vulnerability.

Phyllis Campbell-McCrae, the Canadian director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw), said the hunt resulted in "unnecessary suffering" and was unsustainable. "We object to it on both points," she said yesterday in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where she has been watching hunters. This year's hunt is the third consecutive year that hunters have been allowed to take more than 300,000 animals, which are processed for their pelts.

While the hunt accounts for 2.5 per cent of the Canadian fishing economy, the government and local seal hunters say it provides money in an economically depressed region.

Hunters on places such as the Isles de la Madeleine also complain that campaigners are usually people from out of town who have no knowledge of rural life and who rely on emotive images of young seals being clubbed to death.

The hunters and the government also argue that seals destroy fish stocks. But Dr David Lavigne, a scientific adviser to Ifaw, said the food chains of the ocean were too complex to make such a simplistic link. "It [the hunt] actually could be detrimental because harp seals also eat the predators of cod," he said.