International Protesters
Target Seal Slaughter
By Allison Dunfield
The Globe and Mail
International opponents of Canada's seal hunt are gathering across the country Tuesday to protest what they say is an arcane and inhumane slaughter of the animals.
Protests by the Humane Society of the United States and Greenpeace along with other environmental and animal rights groups are taking place in Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, along with more than 40 other cities across North America. The groups are gathering in front of Canadian embassies and consulates to "protest the cruel and needless slaughter of harp and hooded seals in Canada."
And the groups say global resistance to the seal hunt is on the increase as more people are informed of the suffering they say the animals experience.
"The fact is that opposition to Canada's brutal seal hunt is growing," said Pat Ragan, the Humane Society of the United States's seal campaign manager.
"As the ugly truth about this slaughter spreads from person to person around the globe, it becomes harder for the Canadian government to hide behind the myths that the killing of hundreds of thousands of seals each year is justified, sustainable or humane."
The society says Ottawa is hiding the number of animals who die each year.
They claim East Coast fishermen will kill 300,000 harp seals between late March and the close of the hunt on May 15. They call Canada's seal hunt the largest commercial slaughter of marine mammals in the world.
"Canada's commercial seal hunt is the largest and cruellest slaughter of marine mammals on earth," said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, in a statement.
But Brian Underhill, a spokesman for Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan, says Canada's seal population is in good shape.
"I believe there is in excess of five million seals in the herd right now," Mr. Underhill told "And that does provide an income for numerous families in areas where there's not too much in terms of economic activity."
Mr. Underhill said that number has tripled since the 1970s.
Mr. Regan, whose constituency office in Halifax was targeted by about 30 people Tuesday, won't be making an official comment, Mr. Underhill said. The protesters took a banner and letters to his office, local radio station VOCM reported.
"He believes that the seal hunt is healthy [for the economy]," Mr. Underhill said.
Mr. Underhill also said that while protesters say that the hunt is inhumane because of their claim that some animals are skinned while still alive, according to a recent report published by the Canadian Veterinary Journal, virtually all seals are taken in a humane manner.
This year's protest has attracted some attention from some high-profile activists.
On Monday, retired French actress Brigitte Bardot said she was angry at both Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mr. Regan for not doing enough to stop the hunt. "You are jerks!" she was quoted as saying in an interview with Sun Media. "I wrote for years to all Canadian prime ministers, but it hasn't done anything to stop it. Nothing!"
Ms. Bardot is unable to make the trip to the protests because of her health.
She has attended other seal protests in Canada in the past.
Mr. Underhill said Mr. Regan has no comment on Ms. Bardot's words, but noted that everyone is entitled to their opinion and agreed that issues like the seal hunt bring out strong opinions on both sides.
Marc Roy, a spokesman from the Prime Minister's Office, said Mr. Martin has no comment on Ms. Bardot's remarks.
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