Scottish MP Calls for Seal Cull

Labour MSP Alasdair Morrison stirred up plenty of controversy in April with his suggestion that Scotland follow Canada’s lead in resuming seal hunting.

Morrison said,

Culls are not unique to the Outer Hebrides or indeed to other parts of Scotland. It happens in terms of mink, hedgehog and deer, and again, if required, it should also happen with the seal population around the Hebrides and around the British Isles.

According to the Scotsman, about 38 percent of the world’s population of grey seals and 40 percent of European common seals are found in Britain, and of those about 90 percent breed in Scotland. Seal hunting was banned in 1978 after negative publicity over the Canadian seal hunt.

Scotland’s Advocates for Animals was not happy with Morrison’s suggestion, with a spokesman telling The Scotsman,

Increasingly, seals are being persecuted in the name of fisheriesÂ’ protection when commercial overfishing is the real problem. Time and time again, the fishing industry claim stocks are not recovering because of the seals, but the industry needs to look at itself. The issue over seals has grown in international importance and it is our duty to protect them.

Regardless, a seal hunt is not going to happen anytime soon in Scotland. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive told The Scotsman, “The Scottish Executive has no plans for a seal cull. Evidence suggests that in general seals do not have a significant impact on fisheries stocks.”


Fury over call to cull Scotland’s seals. Andrew Denholm, The Scotsman, April 19, 2004.

Belgium Enacts Temporary Ban on Cat/Dog/Seal Fur Imports

In January, Belgium announced a temporary ban on the import of fur from dogs, cats and seals. The measure also requires all clothing items containing fur to carry labels to that effect.

The temporary ban is expected to last until the Belgian government can draft a permanent ban on such furs.

Belgium joins Italy, France, Greece, and Denmark as the fifth European country to ban cat and dog fur, which mostly arrives in Europe from Asian countries.


Belgium bans fur imports. Expatica.Com, January 16, 2004.

HSUS Takes Out Ad Attacking Canadian Seal Hunt

The Humane Society of the United States took out a full page ad in the Monday, June 16 edition of the New York Times calling for a tourism boycott of Canada until that country agrees to lower its seal hunt quota.

The Canadian government recently announced that it would raise the quota of harp seals that can be killed to 975,000 over the next three years, with a maximum of 350,000 in any year. In 1970, there were only 1.8 million harp seals in the North Atlantic, but today estimates put the harp seal population at 5.2 million.

The ad criticized seal hunters for clubbing baby seals, but Steve Outhouse of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans told the CBC that, in fact, most seal hunters use rifles to kill the animals.

Outhouse also disagreed with HSUS’ contention that the increase in the quota was driven solely by pressure from fisherman who believe seals are responsible for a decline in fish stocks. Noting the near tripling of the harp seal population since 1970, Outhouse told the CBC,

This is clearly a species that is doing well, it’s thriving, it’s growing in numbers. With an international demand, the market forces are calling for more seal products to be on the market.

Outhouse also disputed HSUS’ claim that the Canadian government was subsidizing the seal hunt.


Ottawa says seal protesters need better facts. CBC News, June 16, 2003.

WWF Gets Grief Over its Seal Cull Support

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.

Animal Rights Activist Forced to Resign as NDP Chief of Staff

Less than two weeks after he was elected as the leader of Canada’s socialist New Democrat Party, Jack Layton accepted the resignation of his chief of staff Rick Smith after a controversy arose over Smith’s past work against the seal hunt.

Until leaving to accept the chief of staff position, Smith was director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare which has actively fought against the seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland and parts of the Maritimes.

New Democratic Party officials in Newfoundland strongly protested Smith’s selection. After a caucus meeting of the party this week, Layton announced that he and Smith and discussed the controversy and Layton had accepted Smith’s resignation. Layton reiterated that he supports the seal hunt.

International Fund for Animal Welfare spokesperson Katy Heath-Eves was not pleased by this turn of events. “It’s so unfortunate that it’s a card that’s in the pocket of some politicians and they’re playing this card,” Heath-Eves said.


Layton’s chief of staff resigns. The Globe and Mail, Feb. 5, 2003.

Ex-animal rights crusader quits as Layton aide. The Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 6, 2003.

Jack Layton’s chief of staff resigns. Bill Curry, National Post, Feb. 6, 2003.