Russia bans controversial hunting of young harp seals

Friday, February 27, 2009
(London - 27 February 2009) – Russian government ministers have announced a complete ban on the hunt for “whitecoat” harp seals (pups up to about 11 days old) as the first step in an agreement to end the killing of all baby seals in Russia.

Yesterday’s (26th) announcement of this new accord between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the State Fisheries Committee came just one day after Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, said: “[this] is such a bloody hunt, and it is clear that it should have been banned a long time ago.”

The news was cautiously welcomed by The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which has been campaigning to end the Russian seal hunt since 1995.

Masha Vorontsova, Director of IFAW Russia, said: “The agreement to ban the killing of all baby seals less than one year of age is an important step, but it should not be confused with an actual ban.

“Baby seals will still suffer and die slowly until government officials follow through on their pledge to ban all hunting of seals less than one year of age.”

News of the agreement is sure to infuriate Norwegian sealing interests who were prepared to subsidise 80% of the Russian hunt in the hope of propping up the industry which is in decline worldwide.

European opposition to commercial sealing has already resulted in national bans on all seal products in Belgium, Slovenia and The Netherlands. The European Commission has adopted a proposal to ban the trade in seal products and IFAW is continuing to urge EU member states and others to enact a total ban on seal products.

“European politicians are standing up to protect seals from the cruelty associated with commercial hunts,” added Vorontsova. “We are asking our Russian counterparts to do the same for all harp seals in the White Sea. Remember, 35,000 baby seals will still be killed in the White Sea next month unless Russian Ministers act swiftly to complete their pledge.”

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