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November 6, 2009

HSI/Canada and The HSUS Condemn Opening of Wilderness Area to Seal Slaughter

Humane Society International

MONTREAL — Humane Society International/Canada and The Humane Society of the United States condemns the Nova Scotia legislature's passage of Bill 50 ¡ amendments to the Wilderness Areas Protection Act to allow the commercial slaughter of baby seals on Hay Island for their fur.

"Bill 50 was a direct admission from the Nova Scotia government that there is no evidence to support culling grey seals," stated Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International/Canada. "The government wanted to hand over a protected nature reserve to a globally condemned, commercial slaughter and they were prepared to rewrite the law to do it. In doing so, they have betrayed every Nova Scotian, sacrificed Nova Scotia's reputation and made Nova Scotia a direct target for international boycotts."

Under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act, the slaughter of animals in protected areas is only permitted if it can be proven that the killing is needed to protect the indigenous ecosystem. The amendment will allow the grey seal slaughter on Hay Island to occur without such environmental assessment.

The Law Amendments committee heard and received expert testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday from members of the public: marine biologists; legal experts; conservation, animal welfare and environmental groups; and observers of the 2008 grey seal slaughter on Hay Island. The evidence was clear and overwhelming — the killing of grey seals on Hay Island is needless, inherently cruel and directly violates the spirit of the Wilderness Areas Protection Act. Participants in the hearing were shocked when committee members, in absence of any deliberations, heard from the last presenter and then immediately moved to send the bill back to the legislature for a third reading.

Over the past two years, representatives from Humane Society International/Canada have documented the cruel clubbing of baby seals for their fur on Hay Island. Observers filmed and photographed as hunters herded seal pups, mothers and newborn seals into groups. Sealers clubbed moulted pups inches away from newborns and their mothers. Video and still images from the 2008 grey seal slaughter are available for media download.

Facts:

  • In 2009, sealers killed 200 grey seals on Hay Island. If they received the 2008 price of $25 per seal skin, the total landed value of the Hay Island seal hunt in 2009 would have been just $5,000 CAD.  
  • Grey seals have been subjected to extreme over hunting in the past two centuries, and by 1949 were thought to have been extirpated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. While the population has slowly begun to recover, fishing-industry lobby groups have repeatedly pressured for a cull of grey seals — despite any evidence to suggest such a move is necessary.
  • In 2005, The Humane Society of the United States launched the ProtectSeals boycott of Canadian seafood products as a means of pressuring Canada's fishing industry and government to stop the commercial slaughter of seals.
  • To date, more than 5,500 establishments and 650,000 individuals have joined the ProtectSeals boycott.
  • Markets for seal products are closing around the world. The United States has banned commercial trade in seal products since 1972, and the European Union recently passed its own prohibition on seal product trade.
  • In 2009, the total landed value of the commercial seal hunt in Canada was less than $1.5 million CAD.
  • Tourism revenue in Cape Breton — which is largely dependent on protected wilderness areas and marine ecotourism (such as whale and seal watching) — was valued at more than $225 million CAD in 2007 alone.

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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International — one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than ten million members and constituents globally — on the web at hsicanada.ca. 

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