When I watch wildlife documentaries I love to see playful seals and I would love to take part in a seal watching expedition in Scotland or even on the South East Coast of England (Margate in Kent is becoming a hot spot for seal spotting).
However these popular marine mammals which help attract wildlife tourists to various locations across the world are victims of human cruelty. Seals are brutally and savagely murdered across the world for their skin, oil and most bizarrely by fishermen because seals eat fish to survive!
The Canadian commercial seal hunt
When I think of Canada, I think of a country rich in wildlife however it appears that the Canadian Government may care more about what the fishing industry thinks and increasing GDP from commercial activity than wanting to keep its country rich in wildlife. Each year a cruel and unethical practice takes place in Canada in which seals (including pups aged about 2 weeks to 3 months) are killed with a blow to the head using a wooden club or hakapik.
This hunt is a highly competitive activity and it is disturbing to know that some of the seals are actually skinned before being rendered fully unconscious. Most of the sealers are fishermen who in addition to wanting the seals to sell abroad also have a vested interest as they own sea food companies and thus want to reduce seal population to maintain cod stock levels which in turn will increase their profits.
The 2008 Seal Hunt
The allowed quota for 2008 was 275,000 seals however it was reported that participation in seal hunting was lower than usual and federal officials say that about 80% of the quota was taken (still far too many!!). The reason for low participation included bad weather, high fuel price and the fall in financial value of pelts (half of what they were a year ago).
Whilst seal products are not sold in the U.S.A (thanks Marine Mammal Protection Act) they are still legally sold in a variety of countries including the UK!
Back in 1982, the European Union banned the import of ‘whitecoat’ seal pup pelts (skin) however hunters instead waited until the pups shed their white fur before they killed them.
Seal pelts are still used for a variety of products ranging from designer coats to traditional Scottish sporrans (see photograph below).
However I was delighted to hear that the UK ethical Bank ‘Cop-Operative’ refused to do business with one Scottish kilt company which still uses seal pelts in its sporran range (news source from Guardian newspaper)
After the seals have been skinned most of the meat is wasted and left on the ice, however some is sold and ground up into animal feed and some of the flippers are even sold for human consumption in Newfoundland.
North Atlantic Harp Seal oil is sold in capsules labeled “Terra Nova Omega-3 capsules” by a company called ‘Atlantic Marine Products’. However there is no need at all to source Omega 3 from seals or even fish as ethical alternatives exists including vegan versions containing predominantly seed oil.
Seal products and the EU Legislation
Thanks to the successful lobbying of various conservation and animal welfare organisations the European Commission recently announced that it will seek to ban the import of “inhumane” seal products. However it is not known how long it will be until it is enforced.
Seals and the Fishing industry
It is hard to escape the fact that fish stocks are becoming drastically low, however rather than blaming the unsustainable fish quota’s, many unjustifiable persecute seals simply for eating fish for survival.
Conservation organisations including the Seal Preservation Action Group (SPAG) in the
UK state that:
“There is no scientific evidence to justify claims that seals are threats to fish stocks when human over-fishing clearly is”
In fact research suggests that seals are opportunistic feeders and their diet mainly consists of fish species which commercial fishermen target. According to SPAG:
“It has been estimated that seals in the North Sea account for only 2% of fish stocks annually, compared to 25% to 30% by the fishing industry”
The way in which some fishermen, fish farmers and even the owners of sports fishing rivers deal with seals eating their fish stock is to shoot them. In such instances profit is being put before ethics, animal welfare and nature conservation. However consumers must also play a role in terms of supply and demand, commercial fishermen and fish farmers are protecting fish stock from marine mammals to supply the demand from consumers.
What you can do to help
1) Use your consumer power to protect seals by:
a) Not purchasing any seal by-products
b) Boycott business organisations that sell seal byproducts including fashion designers
c) Help SPAG encourage UK food retailers to stock seal friendly salmon
d) Reduce or even completely stop eating fish
e) Not participating in or funding the sport fishing industry
2) Lobby for change:
a) Help SPAG encourage the UK government to create a Seal Protection Act whereby the killing of seals will be strictly forbidden. If you would like to help SPAG’s campaign, please write to the relevant UK and Scottish Ministers calling for the protection of seals.
Their addresses are:
Lord Rooker, Minister for Animal Welfare, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, Nobel House, London SW1P 3JR
Richard Lochhead MSP Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Scottish Parliament,Edinburgh EH99 1SP
For further information about this campaign please go to the Seal Preservation Action Group (SPAG) website
b) Write to the Canadian Ambassador in your country and pledge to boycott all Canadian seafood products until sealing is ended.
In the UK the address is Canadian High Commission, Macdonald House,1 Grosvenor Square, London,W1X 0AB
c) Write to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanding that the UK introduces a unilateral ban on the import of all seal products as have EU partners Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands:
Rt Hon.Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister, Downing Street, London, SWIA 2AA
I have written to all of the above and I hope that GGG readers will get involved to help protect seals too!