Every year, nearly a million seals worldwide are subjected to painful and often lingering deaths, largely for the sake of fashion.(1) Despite a worldwide outcry over the cruelty of the slaughter and a ban on seal products in many countries, the massacre continues.
Scenes From the Slaughter
Seals are slaughtered in Greenland, Namibia, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Britain, Finland, Sweden, and the U.S. The majority of the animals die in the Arctic regions of the Atlantic.(2)
During Canada's annual commercial seal slaughter, as many as 300,000 seals are shot or bludgeoned.(3) Canada halted the slaughter of so-called “whitecoats” in 1987, but seals lose their white fur at around 2 weeks of age, so most seals are still clubbed or shot to death before their third month of life.(4)
Sealers use a variety of weapons, including clubs, “hakapiks” (heavy wooden clubs topped by a barbed metal hammer head), and rifles. Sealers often hook baby seals in the eye, cheek, or mouth to avoid damaging their fur, then drag them across the ice to skin them.
A senior research fellow at the University of Bristol was part of a veterinary team that observed a seal hunt in Newfoundland in 2007. He reported “widespread disregard for the requirements of Canada’s marine mammal regulations” and sealers who did not check for vital signs before skinning the seals. Nearly half of the seals documented by the team showed “some response to stimuli after being hooked and dragged,” and the majority of seals who were shot were not immediately killed by the first bullet.(5)
Worldwide Disapproval of the Seal Slaughter
Seal products are banned in the U.S., and the U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a resolution calling for an end to the seal slaughter in Canada.(6,7) After Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared the seal slaughter a “bloody practice,” Russia banned the slaughter of harp seals under 1 year of age.(8) Calling the seal slaughter “inherently inhumane,” a European Parliament committee endorsed a bill to ban the trade in seal products from member countries, which the European Union subsequently approved (except for Canadian Inuit items traded for cultural, education, or ceremonial purposes).(9,10) European markets, however, only account for 25 percent of the trade in seal products.(11) Most seal pelts are sold in Norway, Russia, and China for the fashion industry.(12)
What You Can Do
Canadian Senator Mac Harb has introduced legislation to phase-out the commercial seal slaughter. You can help seals by contacting Canadian lawmakers and asking them to support this historic bill.
The Senate of CanadaOttawa, OntarioCanadaK1A 0A4
References1) Catherine Salmond, “Dressed to Kill,” Evening News (Edinburgh), 11 May 2009.2) Agence France Presse English Wire, “Faced With Possible EU Ban, Canada Defends Seal Hunting,” 3 Mar. 2009.3) Ian Traynor, “Europe Votes to Ban Seal Product Trade,” Guardian.co.uk, 5 May 2009.4) CBC News, “The Atlantic Seal Hunt—FAQs,” 5 May 2009.5) Andy Butterworth, “Practicalities and Problems,” The Parliament Magazine 16 Feb 2009.6) Vanessa Mock, “Outcry From Inuits as EU Bans Seal Products,” Radio Netherlands, 5 May 2009.7) Senator Carl Levin, “A Resolution Urging the Government of Canada to End the Commercial Seal Hunt,” S.Res. 84, 24 Mar. 2009.8) Agence France Presse English Wire, “Canada Seeks EU Approval for Seal Hunting Code” 24 Mar. 2009.9) The Press Association, “Canada Defends Annual Seal Hunt,” 23 Mar. 2009.10) Vanessa Mock, “Outcry From Inuits as EU Bans Seal Products,” Radio Netherlands, 5 May 2009.11) Bruno Waterfield, “Seal Products Banned in Europe,” Telegraph.co.uk, 5 May 2009.12) Rob Gillies, “Over 19,000 Seals Killed in First Stage of Hunt,” Associated Press, 26 Mar. 2009.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.