Canadian government sanctions the slaughter of 280,000 harp seal pups – but where will the pelts go?

Saturday, 21 March, 2009
(Ottawa, Canada – 21 March, 2009) – The Canadian government has set a total allowable catch (TAC) for 280,000 harp seals at this year’s commercial seal hunt despite a lack of demand worldwide for seal fur.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) opposes Canada’s commercial seal hunt because of its unacceptable cruelty. The largest marine mammal hunt in the world sees seals being clubbed or shot, primarily so their fur can be used to provide luxury items for the fashion industry.

IFAW is appalled that the Canadian government is persisting with the hunt, expected to start next week, and even slightly increasing this year’s quota, in spite of dwindling international markets and overwhelming public opposition both in Europe and within Canada itself.

The 2009 Canadian commercial seal hunt will be under close scrutiny around the world as the European Union stands poised to ban the trade in seal products from commercial hunts.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “There’s no market, no demand and little support for this hunt in Canada or abroad. The vast majority of Europeans strongly oppose the cruelty involved which is why the European Union is set to vote on a proposed trade ban in the coming weeks.

“We believe an outright ban on seal products from commercial hunts would send an important message to the Canadian government that people in the UK and the rest of Europe want no part in this cruelty. It’s high time the Canadian government ends the seal hunt once and for all.”

Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW, said: “This quota is outrageous. With the current state of fur markets, there’s no place for pelts to go, even at reduced prices, yet the Canadian government has no problem allowing 280,000 seals to die even if it means the pelts will likely sit in a warehouse for the foreseeable future.”

Recent economic evaluations have indicated that the market for seal fur is saturated, causing prices to drop by almost half. Processors report that sales of seal pelts all but stopped at the end of 2007, and in early 2009, still do not appear to have recovered.

Conservation concerns also surround this year’s TAC announcement. The Canadian government scientists have publicly said that a quota of this size will deplete the harp seal population by more than 30%. IFAW maintains that the government’s unwillingness to seriously reduce the TAC is not only irresponsible, but downright reckless given that it is intended to cause the population to decline.

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