Despite best efforts by environmentalists and animal rights activists, this month Canada officially began a non-aboriginal seal hunt on its east coast.
Documents released under freedom of access laws showed that the Canadian government was spending $2.5 million to monitor seal hunts – five times the amount generated from the hunts themselves ($500,000).
In recent years, the market for seal fur has declined. The Canadian government has, however, continued to subsidise the industry, even under their liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Last year, over 66,000 seals were killed in the hunt. Methods used to kill them range from clubbing to shooting with a high-powered rifle. Many of the seals that are killed are babies because their fur is considered more valuable.
The hunt starts in spring, shortly after seals give birth and begin to nurse their pups. Phocalux, a Canadian export company successfully lobbied to get a jump start on this season’s hunt.
“For 18 years, I’ve observed the Atlantic Canadian seal slaughter at close range and witnessed a level of suffering most adult people can’t bear to watch on video. Almost all of the seals killed are pups just a few weeks old, and they are treated brutally,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada.
“Baby seals are routinely shot and wounded and left crawling through their own blood on the ice, crying out in agony. Many conscious, wounded baby seals are impaled on metal hooks and dragged onto the bloody decks of the boats where they are clubbed to death. Wounded seal pups also escape into the water, where they die slowly and painfully.”
The United States and European Union have both banned the trade of seal fur, which has diminished the number of hunters and also decreased demand. The Canadian government has, however, continued to allow the practice. Those who favour the hunt have cited cultural and economic reasons.
Seals in Canada already suffer due to climate change – there has been a disappearance in their habitat, the sea ice. Sea ice is used by seals to give birth, nurse their pups and rest during annual migration. Due to climate change, they face increased risks of death. A study conducted in 2012 showed harp seals in Canada suffering from changes to their habitat.
“Harp seals aren’t endangered,” said lead researcher Danial Johnston in an interview with Scientific American. “So often, we wait until a population is depleted to do anything, and it’s often too late. Here, we have a possibility of getting in front of it and predicting what might happen.”
In February 2016, actor Pamela Anderson asked Prime minister Trudeau to phase out government subsidies to the struggling sealing industry.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) also appealed to its viewers in its video about the slaughter on Facebook to text SEAL to 73822 to urge the Canadian prime minister to stop the barbaric killing of seals. Here is the video:
NOTE: This video contains graphic content, please approach with caution.
This story originally appeared on Observer