Why Is Canada Desperately Holding on to Its Bloody, Money-Losing Seal Hunt?

By on April 15, 2016 with 28 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Canada’s baby seal hunt has resumed.  That’s despite the government of Canada spending far more to monitor and defend the hunt than the sealers gain from selling the pelts they peel from the animals’ bodies. The whole spectacle is cruel and archaic, it’s a financial boondoggle, and it’s just waiting for someone with common sense and economic insight within the government and industry to finish it off and establish a new way forward. We’ve reduced the number of seals killed each year from a high of nearly 365,000 to just 35,000 last year, after closing markets for seal products in the European Union and elsewhere.

Yet even if a relatively small number of sealers take to the ice floes to do their killing, we are going to be there, too.  We won’t relent until it ends.  I’ve asked Rebecca Aldworth, our Canadian director, to give a firsthand account of what’s happening.  She’s there again, as she’s been for nearly two decades, leading the effort to drastically shrink the killing and ultimately to end it once and for all.

From a thousand feet in the air, we could see the beautiful one-month-old seal pup. She lay on a tiny pan of sea ice, surrounded by open water, moving quickly on the rough waves. She looked so vulnerable, clinging to her fragile ice pan, in the midst of the roiling ocean.

But a danger far greater than the high waves was fast approaching. A large red sealing boat was bearing down on her, a shooter at the top with a rifle trained on the pup.

Without warning, a shot rang out and she slumped on the ice, blood spilling out beneath her neck. For a moment the pup lay still and we thought she was dead as the boat moved into position to retrieve her body. But then, she began to move her tail and thrash around. Moments later, she opened her mouth to cry out twice, just before the sealers impaled her on a metal spike, first through her tail, and then through her face, and dragged her onto the boat. There she lay on the blood slicked deck until a sealer clubbed her on the head – to make sure – and skinned her.

This was the very first kill we filmed in the 2016 commercial seal hunt. And it was yet another affirmation of the crucial importance of our being here.

For the tens of thousands of seals that continue to die horribly at the hands of this industry we cannot stop. This year, we are taking our campaign to China, calling for a ban on commercial trade in seal products.

Our fight continues for the tens of thousands of seals that continue to die horribly. This year, we are taking our campaign to China, calling for a ban on commercial trade in seal products. Photo by Michael Bernard/HSI

The most difficult thing I do each year is bear witness to Canada’s commercial seal slaughter. Thousands of pups, just weeks of age, are shot and wounded, impaled, beaten, and skinned in a series of gut-wrenching kills on the ice. I feel as though a part of me dies with every baby seal I watch endure this suffering.

But the evidence we gather here is shutting this industry down. I know that the suffering of this poor baby seal is not in vain, because we are here, and our campaign has already reduced the killing by 90 percent.

Today, the sealing industry is a shadow of its former self, existing on government handouts and false promises of future markets. Only a few hundred fishermen continue to slaughter seals and they earn only a tiny fraction of their incomes from doing so.

But for the tens of thousands of seals that continue to die horribly at the hands of this industry we cannot stop. This year, we are taking our campaign to China, calling for a ban on commercial trade in seal products. And we are working to develop a permanent solution to commercial sealing in Canada: a fair transition program for sealers and a real investment in economic alternatives.

In the meantime, we will continue to shine a global spotlight on what the commercial sealing industry wants to keep hidden. In doing so, we will move ever closer to the moment when peace prevails once more on the ice.

Humane Society International

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  1. David Bernazani says:

    I think you should start doing more public awareness campaigning on this subject. I’m talking video on television, large ads everywhere, posters at bus stops, etc.
    Because many people aren’t even aware that the seal slaughter is still happening. I’ve had friends surprised to hear me tell them that no, it didn’t stop in the ’80’s — which seems to be urban myth– but it is in fact happening today.
    I think if the entire U.S. was fully aware of the gruesome, shameful facts, the pressure on Canada to stop would be overwhelming.

  2. Christina Powell says:

    This killing is so inhumane, and definitely does not reflect well on Canada to continue the hunt. No one needs seal fur anymore or any fur with all of the modern fabrics that give us warmth! Most of the people I know are putting their fur coats in consignment shops because their reality of killing the animals has become to gruesome for them. It is time for Canada to stop these horrific killings. Seals have no way of protecting themselves or their babies! I will never understand how people can take a life away from anyone.

  3. John Mayer says:

    I had about 150 acres in Canada that I had thought about retiring to. Instead I sold it, at something of a loss. Part of the reason was that I didn’t relish living in a country that embraced such a vile and barbaric ritual as this. O, Canada … shame.

    • David says:

      Sounds a little dramatic John. I get the vitriol towards the seal hunt, but if you’re an American the treatment of animals is about a million times worse. More animals are abused, neglected and brutally slaughtered there each year than in an entire decade in Canada.

  4. Gerald Marchel says:

    Stop it now

  5. Denise says:

    I salute NoKill efforts, I just signed up to volunteer!

  6. Marie Risk says:

    I would like to know what Prime Minister Trudeau has to say about this. Also, why would China ever care? They are the worst offenders of skinning animals alive.

    But thank you so very much for the work you do for animals. Thank you!

  7. Christine Clark says:

    I pray for the people who are brave enough to watch in helpless horror to shine light on this horrendous practice. I wish one day you will be able to fly over and see nothing but happy seal pups and their mothers and wash away all the bad memories with fresh happy ones. God Bless you.

  8. karen allman says:

    It is time to awaken and stop the caveman like practices of many many moons ago ~

  9. B Orlowski says:

    I’ve been watching the seal hunt a decade sadly in horror and signing petitions writing to the prime minister etc and see it is a money loss to Canada to continue it and hoping it will end

  10. Kristy trentz says:

    I cannot even bear to think of this…it depresses me to no end and I am so saddened for these pups. I pray for this to end. It’s got to! What barbaric torture!

  11. Petra Hager says:


  12. Petra Hager says:


  13. Sandy Belcastro says:

    I think if I saw this as it was being done, I would have vomited. But I would have waited till the killers were close enough so that I could vomit on them! A-HOLES!

  14. catherine woods says:

    this is disgusting cruelty !!!!!!!!!!!!! people who abuse animals are psychiatric patients waiting to be signed in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Kathleen Colley says:

    In the 21st Century , the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of baby seals is intolerable, particularly in a sophisticated and civilised country like Canada. Many years ago when the indigenous people needed meat, they killed for food and never took more than they needed, but this senseless killing for fur is repugnant. China needs to be educated that the wearing of fur is not a status symbol, that it is outdated in the West and not “cool”. And that anyone wearing fur is a LOSER!

  16. Lee Fister says:

    These are Gods animals they must live………..one day there will be no animals for our children to see……….so let them live don’t kill them….stop killing animals in the name of Jesus!!

  17. Amy says:

    Bless the brave people who take great risks to document these barbaric murders. I feel helpless. What can I do to stop this?

  18. Renea says:

    WAKE UP CANADA!!!!!! There are better ways to utilize the wonderful assets you have than to kill them. Let people come to see them in their natural habitat. It is not in the name of any religion that we kill innocent children, we do not like it being do to our own. Then what gives us the right to do it to others, no matter if they are animals or not?

  19. KIKUE NISHIO says:


  20. Arthur Elliott says:

    Does the humane society have a campaign to stop seal hunting in the USA? In State Alaska?

  21. Sally Palmer says:

    One of many paths I have chosen to do something to help relieve and end suffering such as these seals is as I watch my mother die suffering every single second of every single day is to write our favorite clothing brands and ask them to lead their customers to the more exquisite beauty of elegantly designed shoes and purses and sweaters and coats not dripping with the blood and agony of animals. I got my J Jill catalogue today along with all of the upper middle-end fashion names from Talbots to Nasty Gal to Free People to Anthropologie to Tieks, who like Publix did with its eggs, told me they offered humane to those that wanted it–vegan mixed in with caged animal skin/fur ripped -&-stripped-while-they’re-alive choices. Change in laws and awareness are critical elements of The HSUS vision, so I support anything The HSUS sends for action, but I add on such things as my individual missives using evidence of hideous animal cruelty from The HSUS and others’ investigations to write my letters. Wayne Pacelle and Oprah Wynfrey are so wise and smart to leave all doors open, because you never know who will wander in and be changed forever, or at least enough to see the need for compassion for economic or humane reasons. So I’m writing my letters to women’s clothing operations where fur and skin ripped from living animals who are trapped in nightmare lives–the only lives they will ever have–so their clients can have leather and cashmere, wool, angora, and other animal hair to feel luxurious, and ask them what serenity, what elegance is this to have the screams of animals on our backs and in our hands. Because as I watch the terrible suffering of my mother in my home and know that every second saved from her nightmare is a relief like no other, I know I must do what I can during this time to help keep open the doors to the heart and mind that Oprah and Wayne have made a lifetime’s work of keeping open. It is wonderfully easy to try to keep those doors open by simply asking for Just Mayo at the Winn Dixie to praising Red Robin for their truly vegan burger to supporting local humane shelters to dear heaven writing my big agribusiness supporter congressional representatives.Thank you to The HSUS and to Oprah for showing us the wisdom of doing every day what you can to open doors to relieving and ending suffering for animals and people. Every day ya’ll’s hard work for compassion gives me a chance to help someone be heartstruck by suffering and begin a new life in the humane economy that you and Oprah so well presented from your own hearts.

  22. KV says:

    This practice is disgusting and Canadians who continue to allow this should be ashamed. They should be ashamed not only for doing nothing about it but that your government would condone it. Take a couple of the hunters and blast them in the head and leave them on the ice for their buddies to see. Then maybe they will get the idea that it is not kosher.

  23. barry grier says:

    My advice is to protest against the Canadian Government by rejecting any thought of travel,,holiday etc in Canada..also refuse to support or buy any product made or produced in Canada…if we all combined to do this surely it will have a financial effect on the Canadian economy and the government may have to rethink its seal slaughter policy…….

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