The World Wildlife Fund has been getting a lot of grief from the usual suspects of late over its support over a Canadian plan to kill about a million seals over the next three years.
In 1970 there were only about 1.8 million harp seals in the North Atlantic, but today there are believed to be around 5.2 million. Saying that the seal population is now healthy, Canada authorized an expansion of seal hunting.
Hunters will be allowed to kill a total of 975,000 seals over the next three years, with a maximum in any given year of 350,000 seals. The Canadian government argues that the seal cull helps protect fish stocks as well as provide jobs.
But the announcement angered animal rights activists such as Brigitte Bardot (and when you’ve got a has-been actress opposing you, your options are really limited). Bardot wrote a letter to the World Wildlife Fund, which supports the plan, saying,
How can an organization that you preside over and that has no need to prove its reputation in the domain of the conservation of species anymore, defend such a scandalous position.
. . .
I have often supported WWF, given my image to some of its programmes, and I feel betrayed, it has attacked my most symbolic battle.
Similarly, the International Fund for Animal Welfare complained that the Canadian government planned to “devastate seal populations.” An IFAW press release quoted its president, Fred O’Regan, as saying,
The Canadian government has just returned to the 1800s in terms of animal welfare and conservation. Their decision raises a host of questions: Where is the scientific justification for killing so many seals? How will the government safeguard a much larger hunt against cruelty? Where are the markets for the pelts?
Meanwhile the World Wildlife Fund – Canada responded to criticism by saying that although it disagrees with the Canadian government’s position that seals are endangering fish stocks,
As long as the commercial hunt for harp seals off the coast of Canada is of no threat to the population of over 5 million harp seals, there is no biological reason for WWF-Canada to reconsider its current priorities and actively oppose the annual harvest of harp seals.
We were in contact with Canadian government officials before they set the new quota. Our ongoing conservation concern has been that the commercial hunt for harp seals should never endanger the population. We believe harp seals should thrive in the Atlantic Ocean around the Canadian coast, now and in the future.
Bardot slams WWF over seal cull. AAP, March 18, 2003.
Canada expands seal cull as environmentalists fume. Reuters, February 4, 2003.
Canada to Unveil Massive Seal Cull Plan. Press Release, International Fund for Animal Welfare, January 28, 2003.