A brutal killing of innocent young seals has just begun in Canada, and it happens legally every year. During the past 18 years, executive director of Humane Society International (HSI), Rebecca Aldworth, has seen countless seal hunts take place in eastern Canada. She told The Dodo,
“What we see out there is incredible suffering that most adult people can’t stand to look at on video. I’ve seen seals who have been shot in the face, who have been left crawling across the ice, bleeding out, trying to escape before they’re finally finished off. I’ve seen seals crying out in pain when they’re being impaled on metal hooks and dragged across the ice.”
The scenes include baby harp seals as young as 14 days witnessing their friends being shot and beaten, as they attempt to crawl across the ice and escape whilst their own fur is covered in the blood of others.
The hunters who take part in this legal killing usually target vulnerable baby seals for their fur, before selling their pelts to manufacturers who use it to make clothing items such as fur coats. Due to the majority of hunters wanting to obtain baby seals for their fur, the most popular time for seal hunting is during the spring when the pups are born, although it can take place all year round. However, this year the hunt has started early. Aldworth commented,
“A company called PhocaLux lobbied the Canadian government to open the seal hunt early. They claim that they’re trying to hunt adult seals … for meat and oil.”
Together with this, reports also state that it is impossible to distinguish between adult males and females, meaning that hunters could easily kill females who are nursing their newborn babies. Aldworth said, “Harp seal mothers who are nursing their pups often swim away from their pups. So there’s every chance that a nursing mother could be killed in this hunt. Sealers don’t see the pup — they see the mother seal on an ice floe further away and kill her, not knowing that she has a nursing pup. At that point, the unweaned pup is left to starve to death on the ice.”
PhocaLux could not be immediately reached by The Dodo for comment, and Aldworth commented,
“What they’re doing is reprehensible. They’re allowing commercial sealers to go out and slaughter animals at a time when harp seals and hooded seals are giving birth to and nursing their pups. There is no excuse for the Canadian government to have allowed this to happen.”
Despite these facts and opinion, the Canadian government state that “Fisheries and Oceans Canada supports and regulates the seal harvest and is committed to ensuring it is sustainable.” Vance Chow, a communications advisor for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, continued to tell The Dodo,
“It is an important economic and cultural activity in communities in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the Arctic. As well, the Government of Canada supports a humane and well-regulated seal harvest and is committed to ensuring it is sustainable. The Government of Canada does not tolerate inhumane practices in the seal harvest. To ensure this, Fisheries officers routinely conduct inspections during the seal harvest at sea, in port and using aerial surveillance to record sealing activity.”
Together with PhocaLux, during the beginning of April, other companies will also begin targeting the defenseless baby seals for their hunting, shooting them with shotguns and clubbing them with bats. Aldworth also added an additional factor into the already horrifying story, claiming that,
“The sea ice is breaking up earlier in the year because of climate change, so we’re seeing sealers resort to long-distance shooting … from sealing vessels from a distance of approximately 40 to 50 meters. The problem with that is that the boats are moving, the seals are moving, the water is moving, so there’s a very high wounding rate with sealing. We often see seals get shot in the back and the flipper and being left to suffer in agony, crawling through their own blood on the ice floes.”
According to The Dodo, typically around 400 seals can be killed each day during the hunt, with regulations meaning that each individual sealer can kill as many as 250 seals per day, which quickly adds up to hundreds of thousands of seals being slaughtered every year during the hunting season, which could have a massive toll on seal populations.