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Canada's controversial seal hunt produces less-than-savory images

March 25, 2009 |  2:09 pm

Harp seal carcasses litter the ice during the annual East Coast seal hunt in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence around Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine. Canada's Fisheries Department has set a combined allowable catch for this year's East Coast seal hunt of 338,200 harp, hooded and grey seals.

If you like seals and other marine mammals, then this is not a good week for you: Canada's annual slaughter known as the East Coast seal hunt began Monday and it is not a pretty sight.

Nobody supports it but the Canadian government -- which assures that the killing of more than 300,000 seals is humane and necessary to control seal populations -- and the remote communities that sell harp seal pelts and blubber mostly to China, Russia and Norway.

A European Parliament committee labeled the hunt, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence ice floes near Quebec's Iles de la Madaleine, "inherently inhumane" and had supported a bill that would ban the import of seal products to the 27-member union.

The Humane Society of the United States is on site and is asking that people boycott Canadian seafood and  express opposition in an online campaign.

Wrote HSUS/Canada's Rebecca Aldworth: "The blood was visible from the air, from 2,000 feet away. The carcasses were dumped — as they always are — left to rot in the blood of the slaughtered seals. These seals are killed for their fur in a pointless slaughter, all for vanity and fashion.

"From the air, we could see the babies try to crawl away, to escape as the sealers bore down on them.

"But they were no match for men armed with hakapiks and knives. In seconds, the sealers reached the defenseless pups, and beat the terrified animals to death."

If that's considered humane, then so is firing exploding harpoons into whales. At least the Japanese, during their annual whale hunts off Antarctica, claim to be acting in the name of research.

Thankfully, the United States has a longstanding ban on seal products.

-- Pete Thomas

A young harp seal rests on the ice floes.

Photos: Harp seal carcasses litter the ice during the annual East Coast seal hunt in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence around Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine. Canada's Fisheries Department has set a combined allowable catch for this year's East Coast seal hunt of 338,200 harp, hooded and grey seals. In second photo, a young harp seal rests on the ice floes. Credit: Associated Press (top) and Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

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