IFAW documents unacceptable cruelty during 2011 seal hunt

Wednesday, 13 April, 2011
Cornerbrook, Canada
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) is off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador documenting the commercial seal hunt, and on the opening day of the hunt filmed many apparent violations of the regulations.

“We have ample evidence that the three-step process to ensure humane killing is not being followed.  Neither the test for unconsciousness, nor bleeding out to ensure death, is being conducted” said Sheryl Fink, Director of IFAW’s Seal Program, “As a consequence, we filmed the horror of a live seal pup being sliced down the belly while likely still conscious, and tossed ruthlessly in the bottom of a boat.  For several minutes, the pup makes what appear to be directed, conscious flipper waving and clenching movements as bodies of other seals are piled on top of it.”

The three-step process stipulates that animals should be killed with a club, hakapik or rifle, tested to determine that the animals are unconscious and then bled to ensure death. Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations also require that a sealer retrieve either the pelt or carcass of animals killed during the commercial seal hunt.

“We have documented evidence of seal pups about three weeks of age being killed and left on the ice – skins intact – a clear violation of the law and an unethical and unacceptable waste of wildlife” said Fink.

“Where is the enforcement? Where is the monitoring?” demanded Fink, “When sealers flagrantly ignore the regulations when they are being filmed, I shudder to imagine what happens when no one is watching.”

The Canadian government insists that the hunt is both humane and vital to the economy of local communities. IFAW repeatedly documents cases like these that clearly demonstrate that the commercial seal hunt is not humane and that the rules are frequently ignored. The group also points out that this year sealers are replacing seal hunting with more lucrative crab fishing, which demonstrates that the seal hunt industry can be easily replaced.

“There is absolutely no reason for this slaughter to continue. There is no money to be made, and one sealer was quoted as saying the hunt is now being conducted simply for ‘sport’.  The Government of Canada should admit that the seal hunt is cruel, that it is unnecessary, and they should end it immediately. What we have observed so far this year is simply unacceptable - there is no more room for excuses.”

In addition to the fact that the commercial seal hunt is cruel and inhumane, it is also a waste of Canadian taxpayer dollars. The landed value of the 2010 commercial seal hunt was just over $1 million in 2010, yet the Canadian government spent an estimated $2.3 million to support it.

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