Canadian hunters want to club tens of thousands more baby seals to death in cull expansion

Exclusive: Groups trading in animals’ fur lobby for wider slaughter – including in a nature reserve

Jane Dalton
Wednesday 27 March 2019 17:32 GMT
Seals are shot then clubbed to death in Canada for their fur

Hunters in Canada want to be allowed to club to death tens of thousands more baby seals each year in an expansion of their annual cull.

Hunting groups are lobbying the country’s government to approve a wider slaughter of seals and sea lions for their fur – including in a nature reserve.

The proposals have prompted anger from animal lovers and fresh lobbying of prime minister Justin Trudeau – who already reportedly receives more correspondence on the subject than any other, even climate change.

The groups have put forward three proposals to the federal and provincial governments: one would lift curbs on commercial sealing licences, and another would allow the killing of seals in a Quebec nature reserve.

The third would launch a mass commercial seal hunt in British Columbia.

Tens of thousands of seals off Canada’s east coast – mostly harp, but also hooded and grays – are beaten with clubs, shot with rifles and harpooned or stabbed.

Most are pups between two weeks and three months old, and the year-round culls spike in spring as the pups are growing.

The latest government figures available, for 2016, show 66,800 harp seals were killed that year, and 1,612 grey seals.

Wounded seals are often left to suffer in agony

Humane Society International

Sealing group the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society says waters around British Colombia are “plagued by an overpopulation” of seals and sea lions and that expanded culls would save fish stocks.

The group posted on Facebook: “The way things are looking the seals and sea lions are the apex predator that shall control the planet in the near future?

“Lord knows they are now upon land in the hundreds of thousands taking over our docks, floats and beaches.”

But scientists dispute that culls help salmon and cod stocks, warning any fall in whales’ prey could lead to the giant mammals starving.

“Seals are being used as a scapegoat, just like whales were once blamed for fishery declines,” Hal Whitehead, a marine biologist from Halifax, Nova Scotia, told The Guardian.

Demand for the fur plummeted after the EU in 2009 banned imports following uproar over clubbing, and hunters are now trying to compensate for lost income.

About 6,000 fishermen, mostly from Newfoundland, join the annual hunt.

Experts say a small market for seal oil exists, and seal parts are sold in Asia as an aphrodisiac.

Humane Society International says: “Sealers shoot at seals from moving boats, the pups often only wounded.

“The main sealskin processing plant in Canada deducts $2 from the price they pay for the skins for each bullet hole they find, therefore sealers are loath to shoot seals more than once.

“As a result, wounded seals are often left to suffer in agony. Many slip beneath the surface of the water where they die slowly and are never recovered.”

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