I am absolutely shocked that the Canadian commercial seal hunt, the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world, has started yet again off the northeast coast of Newfoundland. On the first day, 17 boats went out and 4,600 seals were killed. With more than 37 boats embarking on the second day, the slaughter has escalated.
The killing continues despite opinion polls indicating that 71 percent of Canadians don't think the commercial slaughter should receive government funding. Yet the Canadian government continues to support the slaughter and this year set the Total Allowable Catch at 400,000 seals.
This is unbelievable considering that markets for seal products are closed in the United States, most of Europe, Russia and Taiwan. Seal pelts are likely stacked in warehouses - without any buyers. Changes to the sea ice brought about by climate change makes it even more dangerous for fishermen to kill baby seals. In other words, this is a dying industry propped up by Canadian taxpayers.
The Canadian government is fighting the World Trade Organization's decision to uphold the European Union ban on the sale of seal products saying that it undermines fair trade. However, the WTO justifies the ban on "public moral concerns" for animal welfare. Rebecca Aldworth, a Canadian and the executive director of the Canadian wing of the Humane Society International, states that the commercial slaughter is a mere shadow of what it once was and is now an industry that relies heavily on subsidies from the Newfoundland and Labrador government.
With Canadian commercial fishermen receiving only five percent of their incomes from the slaughter, many sealers would consider a buyout of their federal licenses. The sealers know that the hunt's days are numbered.
Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States have fought tirelessly to end the commercial slaughter and have made progress. Shutting down the markets for seal products was the first step. This action was done in concert with a U.S. and European-based boycott of Canadian seafood by some of the world's most famous chefs, including Mario Batali and Cat Cora, along with chains like Legal Sea Food, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.
The horrific photos and videos coming out of Canada, which the government tries to ignore, galvanize people around the world to come out against the slaughter. Shutting down the market for seal products and a successful boycott of Canadian seafood has created the incentive to end the killing. Now, we need the Canadian government to embrace a constructive way to move Canada beyond commercial sealing. That way forward is a sealing industry buyout - a simple plan in which the seal slaughter would be ended, sealers compensated and economic alternatives developed.
Watching Canadian commercial fishermen clubbing and shooting baby seals for their fur is heartbreaking. It's time for Canada to put an end to this atrocity.
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