Seals are cute and lovable but their slaughter in Canada’s annual spring hunt is neither. The mass killing is seem as inhumane by many people. It has also taken a huge toll on the species.
With the launch of this year’s seal hunt the Humane Society International/Canada (HSI) has released some troubling facts. Canada’s federal government established a quota of 400,000 seals in 2014. The seals, mainly their young, are clubbed to death to market their pelts, meat and blubber. Large clubs that resemble ice picks and are known as hakapiks also are used, as well as guns.
Non-aboriginal seal hunters from the countries of the European Union, along with Russia and Switzerland participate in the hunt.
The commercial hunt takes place in two locations—the Gulf of St. Lawrence west of Newfoundland and east of the Magdalen Islands, along with the ocean off Newfoundland’s north-east coast.
The timing of the seal hunt is favourable for fishermen because it coincides with their off-season. Still, their numbers in the hunt are not large—less than 6,000 fishermen – and it represents a small portion of their income. This begs the question “why do it?”
HSI says the hunt is “the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet. It also adds that the actual number of seals killed is likely higher than the number reported. Many are shot or otherwise injured during the hunt. Studies suggest a significant number slip beneath the water surface, where they die and are never recovered.” Similarly, while many nations decline to import commercial seal products the goods created from them often go to waste.
HSI has launched a petition aimed at halting the annual hunt. It argues that the sealing industry only still exists is “because of the millions of dollars of federal and provincial subsidies the industry receives.” HSI says keeping the commercial seal hunt on life support does not create sustainable jobs for future generations. Instead, it suggests investing in the development of marine ecotourism.