EFSA report to European Commission finds Canada's commercial seal hunt inhumane

Wednesday, 19 December, 2007
Parma, Italy
At the request of the European Commission, The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) today released its report on the Animal Welfare Aspects of Seal Hunting, finding there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the Canadian government’s claims that its commercial seal hunt is ‘humane’. Experts with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) are delighted that the report sets the record straight – Canada’s commercial seal hunt is inherently inhumane.
“The Canadian government’s claim that 98% of the seals are killed humanely in the commercial seal hunt is exposed in the report as being scientifically incorrect.  This report reveals the truth about Canada’s commercial seal hunt, and destroys one of the greatest myths constantly propagated by the Canadian government”, said Sheryl Fink, Senior Researcher with IFAW.
In its examination of Canada’s commercial seal hunt, the EFSA scientists found that:

  • there is strong evidence that, in practice, effective killing does not always occur;

  • there is evidence that, during Canada’s commercial seal hunt,  animals suffer pain and distress (i.e., are inhumanely killed);

  • sealers often do not comply with the Canadian regulations in relation to manually checking the skull or administering a blinking reflex test;

  • in contrast to current practice, attempts to kill seals should not be made where the seal does not pose a stable target or the sealer may be unbalanced, such as on shifting ice floes;

  • seal hunts should be opened up to independent inspections without undue interference.

    The EFSA opinion concludes that seals should be recognized as sentient marine mammals that can experience pain, distress, fear, and other forms of suffering - not fish, as they are classified in Canada. It also recommends that seals should be protected from killing and skinning practices that cause them pain, distress, and avoidable suffering.
    The report draws an important distinction between the prescribed methods for stunning and killing seals described in Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations and the methods that are actually employed during Canada’s commercial seal hunt.
    “IFAW has been documenting Canada’s commercial seal hunt for decades and has witnessed unspeakable acts of cruelty on the ice,” said Ms Fink.
    IFAW submitted unedited footage to the EFSA Panel that clearly showed the hooking and dragging of live seals, wounded seals suffering for long periods of time, and few sealers administering basic tests to ensure seals are dead prior to skinning. Representative footage and photographs are available at www.stopthesealhunt.org.
    “The government of Canada must now admit what the EFSA report makes clear: Canada’s commercial seal hunt is inhumane, the current regulations do not satisfy modern standards of animal welfare, and besides, they are unenforceable. Clearly, it is time for Canada to abandon this cruel and unnecessary hunt.”
    The EFSA report was compiled at the request of the European Commission. EFSA assessed from an animal welfare perspective the scientific evidence about the different methods of killing and skinning seals.
    For more information on what IFAW is doing to stop the commercial hunting of seals, visit www.stopthesealhunt.org.

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