Two sides trade verbal jabs as season for hunting grey seals approaches
SYDNEY — Days before the season opens for hunting grey seals on Hay Island off Cape Breton, anti-hunt activists and sealers were trading verbal jabs Wednesday.
The Humane Society International/Canada issued a press release condemning the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Nova Scotia government for allowing the hunt.
Fisheries and Oceans will allow 2,220 seals to be “slaughtered” beginning on or around Monday, just days before the Feb. 12 opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia, the society said.
“If the seal slaughter goes ahead on Hay Island, Humane Society International will be there to document it,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of the society. “ The world community will be horrified to see baby seals beaten to death with wooden bats in a nature reserve; this is not the image Canada should be projecting to the world.”
The society said in 2008, it filmed and photographed as sealers herded baby seals into groups, then clubbed moulted pups and cut them open with box cutters just inches away from newborn pups and their mothers,
Fisheries and Oceans said Wednesday it has authorized a Monday to March 15 season for the grey seal hunt on the island, although if and when it occurs will depend on the sealers and the weather.
The department allows the hunt to begin when 90 per cent of the seal pups have been weaned and abandoned by their mothers.
Robert Courtney, a spokesman for the sealers, has said they hope to harvest the animals but it will depend on finding buyers.
Courtney, president of the North of Smokey Fishermen’s Association, scoffed at the humane society’s use of the term “slaughter,” saying veterinarians and Fisheries and Oceans officials have observed seal hunts and approved it as a humane harvest.
“I don’t think those people (in the humane society) are qualified to say otherwise,” he said. “It’s one of the closest-monitored hunts that takes place anywhere.”
The grey seal population in Atlantic Canada, which has been estimated at 300,000-plus, is out of control, said Courtney.
“ What is their suggestion? Are they going to buy food to feed them so they don’t have to eat out of the same ocean we are trying to eat out of ?”