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Fur, Cruelty and Animal Rights - Baby Seals Clubbed on the Ice

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Harp Seal Pup

Harp seal pup. Photo by Joe Raedle.

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The Seal Slaughter

Just a few years ago, hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals were clubbed to death in front of their mothers by Canadian fishermen. The quota set by the Canadian government for 2012 was 400,000 seals, although it's expected that far fewer will actually be killed. The event has turned into an annual spectacle, with animal protection groups and the media attempting to document the slaughter from ships or helicopters. The Canadian government and the sealers themselves attempt to block access to the area to avoid publicity.

A Change in Policy

After images of pure-white baby seals being clubbed to death caused publicity problems for the Canadian government, the seal slaughter was restructured in 1987 to target seals over 2 weeks old, when the seals’ coats are beginning to turn grey. The Canadian government claims that these 2-week-old seals are adults, even though they are still too young to swim and cannot escape.

Still Alive

In 2001, veterinarians who examined the skulls of skinned seals concluded that over 40% of the seals were still conscious and alive when they were skinned.

Seal Slaughter Myths

In the Canadian commercial seal hunt, there are no aboriginal hunters, and no part of the seal is eaten. The slaughter is conducted by fishermen to supplement their income, not as their main source of income. Some claim that the seals eat the same cod that the fishermen are after, but cod is less than 3% of a seal’s diet. A seal also eats animals who prey on cod, so a seal is part of a natural, balanced ecosystem.

2008 Seizure of the Sea Shepherd Vessel

On April 12, 2008 the Canadian government seized the Farley Mowat, a ship belonging to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The crew was attempting to document the seal slaughter, and according to Canadian officials, came within 300 feet of a sealer, in violation of their regulations. Sea Shepherd calls the seizure an act of piracy, and announced that they will bill the Canadian government $1,000 per day of the seizure.

Bans on Seal Fur and Seal Products

In the United States, the importation and sale of seal fur and other seal products are prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. In 2009, the European Union banned the commercial importation of seal products.

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