Cruelty to Animals
"I did see some mothers killed and the pup fall out on deck still aliveâ€¦Told me to throw it overboard and I did. It crawled up on a pan of ice. The mother was full of milk, and the milk ran out on deck when the pup fell out."
- Sealer's Statement, taken by Cyril Furlong, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, July 3, 1998, 15:33 hrs
There are many factors that make the seal hunt inherently inhumane.
Sealers are paid per sealskin they obtain rather than by the hour. This provides a direct incentive to kill as many seals as quickly as possible. The speed at which the seal hunt operates makes extreme cruelty inherent.
A large percent of seals are shot at in open water. Warming ocean temperatures have resulted in a dramatic decrease in ice cover in recent years. More seals are being shot at in the water from moving boats. Of the animals that are shot at in open water, an estimated 50% are wounded, but retreat beneath the surface of the water where they die slowly and are never recovered.
The seal hunt is conducted over large amount of territory, with hundreds of small boats. As a result, there is little to no enforcement of the few animal welfare regulations that exist, and DFO officers and veterinarians are not required on the many sealing vessels.
Sealing is not a fulltime occupation. Most sealers hunt only for a few days during the Spring, and often not every year. This means that many sealers are very inexperienced, increasing the amount of regulatory violations.
Over the past three decades, observers including media, parliamentarians, animal welfare and veterinary specialists have all documented gross animal welfare violations at the Canadian seal hunt. These include dragging conscious seals across the ice with sharpened boat hooks (gaffes), shooting animals and leaving them to writhe in agony, stockpiling dead and dying seals, beating and stomping live seals, and even skinning animals alive.
But regardless of the reports and the evidence, the Canadian government refuses to act.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, video evidence of more than 660 violations of the Marine Mammal Regulations - including the skinning of live seals - has been submitted to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. To date, not a single charge has been laid in response.
In 2001, an independent international veterinary panel attended the seal hunt. They observed hunting from the air and from the ground, and performed 73 post-mortems on seal carcasses. Their shocking report concluded that up to 42% of the animals they studied were likely skinned alive.
More direct testimony from sealers about the killing of pregnant female seals is available on our site. Read the report on sealers speaking out about cruelty at the hunt.