The Canadian fur seal hunt, considered the largest killing of mammals in the world, took a critical tack after the European Union banned import of Canadian seal products on grounds of cruelty.
For the past 30 years, animal welfare groups have documented the slaughter of up to 300,000 fur seals in the northern Canadian islands for three weeks starting late March. In 2011, the Canadian government even allowed the slaughter of 468,200 of harp, grey and hooded seals, an increase of 80,000 from 2010 and the highest set since the Canadian government introduced quota management in 1971. What they observed, filmed and recorded was the horrendous cruelty in the slaughter of fur seals, including impaling seals with metal picks, dragging them semi-alive across the ice, live skinning and contrary to Canadian law, killing of baby seals under three months old.
These seals are mainly killed for their skin, which sells at between HK$120 and HK$400 per piece. The blubber is used for making health supplements under the product name of Canadian Seal Oil. A tiny portion of the slaughter is processed into seal meat for human consumption.
With the European Union ban, Canadian seal hunters lost a third of their market, resulting in a crash in prices down to as low as HK$60. These economics forced the Canadian government down either one of two paths: to buy out the seal hunt industry, or to look for new markets with alternative seal products.
In January 2011, the Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea made a startling announcement that an agreement has been reached to export seal meat for human consumption in China.
To Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of Humane Society International and campaigner against the Canadian seal hunt, this agreement “gives permission for Canada to dump products of cruelty the rest of the world has rejected on China”. Aldworth believes that the Canadian government must be shown that Asian people feel just as strongly as the rest of the world and “they do not want to participate in this industry”.
Hong Kong now plays a pivotal role in stopping the seal hunt for good. By banning seal products in Hong Kong, we will not only be closing the market here, but also have a knock-on effect on China and Asia, and send a clear message to the Canadian government.
Our campaign, included publicising Karen Mok's visit to witness the Seal Hunt in Canada, and lobbying Legco members, which resulted in 34 Hong Kong lawmakers sent a plea to the Canadian government asking that seal hunt products not be sent to Hong Kong.
The aim of the Seal Hunt Campaign was achieved in that SPCA showed the Canadian Government that there is opposition to the hunt in Hong Kong.
Unfortunately as of end of 2012, the Canadian Seal Hunt continues, though the numbers being slaughtered are much diminished and a fierce debate is underway in Canada regarding its future.
We have been campaigning for a ban of fur seal products to Hong Kong since 2009. The SPCA does not normally get involved in overseas campaigns, however we made an exception after the European Union banned Canadian Seal Hunt products in Europe on the basis that the hunt was cruel and Hong Kong became a pivotal factor in allowing the trade (and the hunt) to continue, as new markets were sought in China. SPCA took the stand that the Hong Kong people should at least be made aware of Hong Kong’s new potential role in keeping the largest single slaughter of mammals alive, so efforts were made to inform the public and our law makers.