March 28 marks both the opening of this year's Canadian commercial seal hunt—the largest slaughter of marine mammals on Earth—and the 25th anniversary of the European Union directive banning the trade in fur from newborn seals.
The 1983 directive brought the Canadian seal hunt to a virtual standstill for a number of years.
However, Canadian seal hunters now circumvent the law by killing the pups when they are just a few days older, allowing the legal trade of products from those baby seals in Europe.
"Tomorrow the slaughter of baby seals will begin in Canada, largely because Europe continues to import seal products," stated Mark Glover, director of Humane Society International/UK.
"A comprehensive ban on seal product trade in the European Union will stop the cruelty of commercial seal hunts and finally meet the expectations of the European Parliament and European citizens."
In 2006, the European Parliament passed a historic resolution calling on the European Commission to immediately draft legislation banning the trade in seal products, regardless of the age of the seal.
The European Commission then conducted a study on the animal welfare aspects of commercial seal hunting, the results of which should provide the foundation for a ban.
That study found, "in practice, seals are not always effectively killed", seals suffer "pain and distress" during Canada's commercial seal hunt, and "seals may be skinned while conscious."
"Just days ago, we stood on the ice floes with beautiful baby seals still covered in white fur. It is heartbreaking that the commercial seal hunt will begin tomorrow, and these pups will be brutally clubbed, shot and skinned to produce fashion items nobody needs," stated Rebecca Aldworth, Director of Animal Programs for Humane Society International-Canada.
"The European Union holds the power to right an international wrong by ending its trade in all seal products."
Despite mounting pressure from around the world to end the commercial slaughter of seals, the Canadian government authorized seal hunters to kill 275,000 harp seals in 2008, one of the highest quotas in recent history. The slaughter officially opens at dawn on March 28.
A large delegation of sealing industry lobbyists traveled to Europe at the request of the Canadian government to lobby against the pending seal product ban.
Recent polling shows the overwhelming majority of Canadians are opposed to the commercial seal hunt, and two-thirds of Canadians holding an opinion support European nations banning seal product trade.
- Canada's commercial seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on Earth, with hundreds of thousands of seals killed annually.
- In Canada, more than 95 percent of the seals killed each year are less than 3 months old. At the time of slaughter, many have yet to eat their first solid meal or take their first swim, and they are utterly defenseless against the hunters.
- The seals are killed for their fur, which is sold in fashion markets in Europe, Russia and Asia.
- Nations around the world have taken action to end their trade in seal products or announced their intention to do so, including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, Slovenia and the United States.
- In Canada, sealers are commercial fishermen, who earn only a small fraction of their annual incomes from killing seals during the off-season.
- HSUS is calling upon the Canadian government to end the seal hunt by implementing a fair buyout of the sealing industry, compensating seal hunters for lost income as the slaughter is closed.
- Since 2005, The HSUS has urged U.S. companies to avoid selling and serving Canadian seafood in order to convince that country's fishing industry to stop participating in and supporting the commercial seal hunt. Since the boycott began, the value of Canadian snow crab imports into the U.S. has decreased by more than $465 million.
- Trade data shows the 2007 value of exports to the U.S. from the Newfoundland fishing and seafood preparation industries decreased by 44 percent compared to 2004, the last year prior to the boycott. For Canada as a whole, the value of exports to the U.S. from the fishing and seafood preparation industries decreased by 22 percent.
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