Canada Seal Hunt Opens

Canada’s seal hunt opened Tuesday in eastern Canada, according to satirist Bill Maher, who has asked his Twitter followers to donate to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to fight the slaughter. Most animals killed are harp seals under the age of three months, when the coats are still the highly desired white color. HSUS stated that “hundreds of thousands” of the baby seals have been killed in previous legal seal hunts.

The seal advocacy website confirmed that Canada’s seal hunt had opened at 6 am Tuesday morning.

The unpopular seal hunt has been haunted by allegations of cruelty for four decades, with images of hunters clubbing or shooting baby seals collected over the years by groups like Greenpeace and Humane Society International’s Protect Seals. In recent years, the United States, Mexico, Russia, the European Union, and even more countries have banned seal products because of the concerns about Canada’s hunt.

The struggling fur industry is now heavily subsidized by the Canadian government. Last month, economically challenged Newfoundland and Labrador provinces announced that they would provide $3.6 million in subsidies for the 2013 hunt.

But not everyone agrees that Canada’s seal hunt is a bad idea. Some Canadians say that hunting seals is a traditional way of providing fur and meat in lands where growing vegetable food and fiber is impossible. For instance, vegetarian Justin Beach has said that seal-hunting families are following a long tradition. He also noted the outrageous cost of shipping groceries to the poor, remote region by airplane, which makes the extra meat and the extra income from the fur look attractive.

Other people have said that, in some areas, seals that aren’t hunted multiply too fast and create a population problem. Last year, a Swedish fishermen’s group proposed a plan to hunt 40,000 seals, which they said have become so numerous that they destroy nets in order to feast on the fish trapped there.

Forty years of debate about Canada’s seal hunt hasn’t brought the two sides any closer.

[harbor seal pup photo courtesy Brent Danley and Flickr]