Outrageous: 50,000 Seals Have Been Killed By Hunters So Far This Year

Canada's seal hunt is in full swing -- and hunters are killing a mind-bogglingly high number of seals, mostly to support the fur trade. As of this week, about 50,000 seals -- most of them just a little older than two weeks -- have been clubbed or shot off Canada's east coast.

While the Canadian government allows these hunts to continue, a quota of 400,000 seals has been set in recent years, making it the largest marine mammal hunt in the world. And even worse -- most of the seals are babies or juveniles, barely able to move on the ice.

"They're these little fat puffballs, living off their blubber," said Sheryl Fink, Wildlife Campaigns Director, for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Canada. "They're killing animals just as they are weaned from their mothers."

Under the law, baby seals that still have white hair, called "whitecoats," are illegal to kill. But at about two weeks old, this hair starts to molt. According to Fink, who has been observing the commercial seal hunt for 11 years, 90 to 98 percent of the seals killed during the hunt are under 3 months old.

The funny thing about the annual hunts, which wrap up around the end of May, is that the demand for seal pelt is quickly waning, due largely to groups like IFAW who've documented the brutal hunt. In addition, bans on seal products in the EU, Russia and the U.S. have curtailed access. Fink said that fur marketers are now looking to places like China to supplement the plummeting demand.

Recently, conservationists are seeing a decrease in the amount of ice in the areas where seals usually gather to give birth and raise their pups, potentially leading to the premature deaths of some of the seals. The hunt, they say, will only worsen this problem.

To learn more about Canada's seal hunt -- and to find out about ways to stop it -- check out IFAW's campaign.