7 Reasons Why Canada’s Brutal Seal Hunt Needs To End Now

Canada's seal hunt is in full swing -- and, at this point, over 50,000 harp seals have been killed by hunters this season alone. Animal advocates argue first and foremost that the hunt is cruel and inhumane. Here are seven reasons the hunt must end:

1. It's barbaric.

The seal hunt is one of the cruelest large hunts around -- hunters use clubs or spiked tools called hakapiks to kill seals, without stunning them first. Many animals don't die immediately and suffer needlessly.

2. Most of the seals are babies -- less than 3 months old.

Thanks to exposes by animal advocates, it's now illegal to kill seals called "whitecoats" -- ones that are less than two weeks old. But at two weeks, young seals start to lose their white fur, and become fair game for hunters. Hunters value the young seals because their fur is the softest -- but this prevents seals from breeding and sustaining the population.

3. The demand for seal fur has decreased exponentially.

While the value of the seal hunt comes mainly from the pelts, the demand for seal fur is waning. Seal products were banned in the U.S. in 1972, in the EU in 2009, and in Russia (at one time the biggest market) in 2011. According to a document from the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, sealers are now looking to promote seal products to new markets in countries like China. But, says Sheryl Fink, Wildlife Campaigns Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Canada, that hasn't helped the industry yet. According to Fink, sealers have been stockpiling pelts for the past few years, hoping that demand will spike again.

4. Most of the meat goes to waste.

It's well known that few people eat seal meat any longer -- barring the Inuit ring seal hunt (which is an entirely different seal hunt that is not being targeted by animal advocates, because it is a subsistence hunt for meat), the only parts of the harp seal that are usually consumed in the commercial hunt are the flippers, which are sometimes used in "seal flipper pie." But for the most part, the hunt is driven by demand for pelts (which is decreasing), and the meat remains on the ice after the pelts are taken.

5. It's costing Canadian taxpayers a lot of money.

Government documents show that the sealing industry receives massive subsidies every year to keep it afloat. In 2011, a fisheries agency received $1.2 million for the funding of seal marketing and production initiatives from the government -- paid for by Canadian taxpayers. According to IFAW, the Canadian government has thrown away over $50 million in tax dollars since 1996 in subsidies and trade junkets directed at the sealing industry.

6. Seals are integral to their local ecosystem.

As one of the top predators in their ecosystem, harp seals are crucial to maintain an ecological balance. They are also prey to some of the most important apex predators out there, like orca whales. A decline in the seal population could very well cause a ripple effect through the ecosystem that would hurt other species as well, like the many fish populations that are kept in check by these predators.

7. Seals are already threatened.

Harp seals -- the species targeted in the Canadian hunt -- have been declining in the Arctic for years, due to hunting, overfishing and climate change. As the ice melts earlier in the year each year, seal pups are sometimes deposited into the water too soon, and die because they aren't yet strong enough to swim. And with a yearly government-set quota of 400,000 seals (the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world), the combination of hunting and climate change could spell disaster for the species.

To find out more about the annual seal hunt and sign a petition calling for it to end, see this page.

Despite bans on the trade of seal products in many countries, Canada's commercial seal massacre -- the largest marine mammal hunt in the world -- still goes on each year. The hunt is inhumane and wasteful -- much of the demand is for luxury fur items, and most of the meat is thrown away. Join us in pledging never to buy seal products to help put an end to the deadly hunt once and for all.