By Shenita EtwarooThe Canadian Seal Hunt accounts for the largest slaughter of marine animals in the world. Canada issues permits that allow the killing of some 325,000 seals a year, along with an added bounty of 10,000 Harp Seals. The Canadian government has continually defended the practice, claiming that the hunt does not impact the seal population-a statement the environmentalists and animal lovers refuse to accept.
There are 30 million members of the Harp, Hood and Gray Seal families that once inhabited the East Coast of Canada. That figure dropped to a mere 1.8 million in the 1970s, while today, the government claims that 5.2 million seals continue to flourish in Canada. This statistic, however, has long been disputed, because since 1994, no meaningful attempts to review the seal population have been made. This callous disregard speaks to a million lives lost among these endangered species.
In 2002, more than 312,000 seals were slaughtered despite the official approval for only 275,000. Those responsible for the overkill were not held legally accountable and in fact, were ready to rejoice for performing beyond the target. In 2003, 283,497 Harp Seals were butchered to death and in 2004, the figure rose to 365,971. Between 2003 and 2005, a period of three years, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Ocean allowed the senseless slaughtering of 975,000 baby and adult Harp Seals and 30,000 adult Hood Seals.
The lack of proper seal counting techniques makes these figures appropriate for further dispute and moreover, for every seal that is brought to land for the practice of "sealing," another is shot and yet another is lost under the ice, for which there exists no record. Therefore, for each seal brought to land for slaughtering, there is a threat to the life of two more.
The Canadian DFO has been planning to revive the East Coast cod industry, which is on the verge of collapse because of years of negligence and mismanagement. It has chosen to massacre the seal population as a means of bringing back the cod industry and to provide a livelihood for wandering anglers. DFOs have long been endorsing seal hunting on the coasts of Canada based on their assumption that the growing seal population is a threat to the survival of the cods, a theory that has yet to be substantiated.
They remain ignorant of the fact that the diet of Harp and Hood Seals does not include cod. They also seem to turn a deaf ear toward the alarm raised by environmentalists, who insist that the slaughter of seals creates bacterial infestation on the floor of the ocean. This leads to hypoxia, a condition where certain parts of the sea is depleted of oxygen dissolved in the water, thus making fish, seals and other marine life struggle to survive.
In spite of these concerns-along with the outcry made by the conservationists across the globe and a threat of economic sanctions imposed on the country-the Government of Canada seems un-phased. They are focused only on extracting as much profit as they can from the annual slaughtering of seals. In fact, the carcasses of the seals represent another money-making opportunity, as merchants produce products from seal skins, oil and meat.
The demand for seal pelts has been on the rise in international markets. New trends in fashion have further worsened the situation. Pelts are exported from Canada to countries like China, Norway, Germany, Greenland, Finland, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, Russia, Greece and South Africa. Seal meat does not have much demand in the international market, as it is not considered an edible item for the major population of the globe. All the same, the Government of Canada remains optimistic about its potential as a saleable product.
Seal oil has become increasingly popular by falsely touting it as a health booster and a source of Omega 3 Fatty acids. However, the facts related to the consumption of seal oil are staggering: It is confirmed that it contains bio-accumulative PCBs, an animal carcinogen. This is known for inducing liver diseases and reproductive ailments.
The European Parliament imposed a ban in 2009 known as the European Seal Bill. This ban over the import of seal products has been a blow to the seal hunt expedition continuing in Canada, and has lessened the value of seal pelts by half. Unfortunately, the country continues to find buyers in other parts of the globe. Considering the corrupt attitude of Canadian Government toward seal hunting, governments in other parts of the globe are needed to continue imposing bans similar to the European Union on seal trading in order to ever to end it.