Canadian commercial seal hunt does not conform to accepted
standards of humane slaughter
MONTREAL (Oct. 11, 2012) – Humane Society
International/Canada welcomes the publication of a landmark veterinary report
that concludes trade prohibitions on products of commercial seal hunts are
justified on animal welfare grounds because of the inherent obstacles to humane
slaughter in commercial sealing.
Commercial seal hunting faces worldwide condemnation, which has resulted
in numerous countries taking measures to restrict trade in seal products.
“Canada’s commercial seal hunt does not occur in a
controlled environment. Rather, it happens far offshore where high winds and
ocean swells, low temperatures and visibility, and unstable sea ice are common elements,”
said British veterinarian Andrew Butterworth, DVM. “The evidence shows that
these factors, paired with the speed at which the killing must occur due to
economic and safety pressures, prevent consistent and effective application of
humane slaughter methods in the Canadian commercial seal hunt.”
“I have studied the Canadian seal hunt extensively, and
concluded that it is an inherently inhumane activity because of the environment
in which it operates and the speed at which the killing happens,” said Canadian
veterinarian Mary Richardson, DVM. “What is clear is that climate change is
actually exacerbating the situation, by altering the physical environment in
which sealers work. The decrease in sea ice cover in recent years is likely
increasing instances in which seals are shot at in open water, wounded and left
to suffer, and impaled on gaffs and dragged onto vessels while conscious. These
are all situations in which seals suffer significantly.”
“In clear and compelling detail, this peer reviewed study
details the numerous, insurmountable obstacles to humane slaughter at the
Canadian commercial seal hunt,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of
Humane Society International/Canada. “In the fourteen years I’ve witnessed this
slaughter, I’ve documented consistent levels of suffering that no Canadian
could ever accept if they could see it for themselves. As a civilized society,
we must take immediate action to end this inherently inhumane activity, and one
of the best ways to do so is to stop the global trade in seal products.”
The report finds:
factors prevent effective and consistent application of humane slaughter
methods in the context of commercial sealing, including the speed at which the
killing must be conducted, the climate and sea ice conditions in which the seal
hunt occurs, and the changes in sea ice state which have come about with
sealing regulations fail to prescribe humane slaughter methods, as any
responsible veterinary authority would define them.
studies on the outcomes of commercial sealing show consistent problems in the
application of three central components of humane slaughter: stunning,
monitoring for unconsciousness, and bleeding out.
nature of the seal hunt—including long distance shooting, shooting from moving
boats and targeting moving animals—makes it unlikely to obtain an acceptably
high proportion of clean head shots, and high wounding rates are recorded when
seals are shot.
by manual percussive blows to the skull (clubbing) is not recommended for
general use or for animals the size and weight of the seals killed in the
Canadian seal hunt. In examining skulls of seals clubbed by Canadian sealers,
veterinarians have repeatedly identified a lack of cranial injury that would
correlate with insensibility.
- It may be
that given the commercial scale of the hunt, the nature of the animals involved
and the field environment in which the killing occurs, there are no fail-safe
methods for determining levels of consciousness in wounded seals, and
veterinary reports have consistently identified a widespread failure by sealers
to monitor seals for unconsciousness following stunning.
commercial seal hunt employs stunning methods that can induce temporary loss of
consciousness and must be promptly followed by bleeding to cause death.
However, Canada’s sealing regulations do not require that seals are bled out
immediately following confirmation of unconsciousness, nor do they prevent
sealers from gaffing and dragging or throwing seals prior to or during the
monitoring of the commercial seal hunt by authorities is a practical
impossibility given that the area to be patrolled is very extensive and the
number of sealers is large.
in the ice state due to climate change likely increase instances in which seals
are shot at in open water, wounded and lost, or impaled on gaffs and dragged
onto vessels while conscious.
have a number of physiological and anatomical adaptations that bring into
question whether ‘conventional’ thinking on slaughter can be applied to these
- In the
context of commercial sealing, both shooting and clubbing should be viewed as
evidence clearly shows that the actions of governments in prohibiting trade in
seal products are justified.
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