IFAW wonders: What report did Canadian Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn read?
The statement by Canadian Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn that the scientific opinion of the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) somehow “upholds the legitimacy and humaneness of hunting practices and techniques” used in Canada’s commercial seal hunt is a blatant misrepresentation of the EFSA report.
In fact, Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations, which govern hunting practices in Canada’s commercial seal hunt, are shown by the EFSA to be severely deficient when it comes to humane killing. For example:
EFSA Recommendation: Seals should be bled-out as soon as possible and, preferably immediately, after they have been successfully stunned and checked to ensure they are irreversibly unconscious or dead.
Truth: Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations do not require bleeding-out to be conducted after stunning. Consequently, seal hunt observers have documented numerous cases of injured, conscious seals stockpiled and suffering on the ice.
EFSA Recommendation: Seals should not be moved, i.e. gaffed [hooked], hauled, or moved… until it has been confirmed that they are dead or irreversibly unconscious.
Truth: Under the current Canadian legislation, it is legal to hook seals before they have been checked for unconscousness or death. The hooking of live and conscious seals in Canada’s commercial seal hunt has been recorded on numerous occasions.
Perhaps the most shocking truth is that both of these recommendations were at one time required under Canadian legislation, but subsequently removed. The reality is that when it comes to humane killing practices, Canadian legislation has actually been moving backwards.
Further, if Minister Hearn had actually read the EFSA opinion, he would know that the “potentially unproven biases” referred to by the Panel are actually those that err in favour of sealers. These include the fact that sealers are likely to alter their behaviour when they are aware that their practices are being observed and recorded, and the reality that observers are only able to document the hunt during weather conditions that are optimal for sealers. As a result, the EFSA report notes that observations by groups such as IFAW and others are likely to represent “best practices.”
It is time for Loyola Hearn to admit what the EFSA report makes clear: Canada’s commercial seal hunt does not meet modern scientific standards of humane killing. This hunt is an embarassment to Canadians - the majority of whom oppose its continuation – and should be ended.
Senior Research and Projects Specialist
International Fund for Animal Welfare