harp sealVANCOUVER, MAY 14/09 – The European Union (EU) won high marks of praise from The Humane Society of Canada for a ban on the import of seal products which passed last week in Strasbourg, France by a vote of 550 to 49. The ban is expected to be endorsed by the Council of Ministers representing the national governments of the 27 member nations in the coming weeks to ensure that it is in place before the 2010 Canadian seal hunt. The next phase will involve the implementation of the ban throughout the EU.

“Instead of trying to end this terrible cruelty, for years, Canadian politicians, civil servants and sealers have waged a multibillion dollar taxpayer funded campaign of artificial trade subsidies, misinformation and intimidation. After waiting decades for Canada to clean up its act and watching a bad situation only get worse today the European Union representing more than 491 million of their own citizens decided that enough was finally enough,” explains HSC Western Regional Director Al Hickey.

The HSC Chairman & CEO Michael O’Sullivan cautions that the battle is not over yet and says that Canadian taxpayers need to send a clear signal to Ottawa that it is time for a change: “For the first time in history and particularly in these troubled economic times, the Canadian Government has real opportunity to take a leadership role in reversing the harm caused by the seal hunt and moving forward with a new fiscally responsible and pragmatic direction that saves tax dollars and creates real jobs with a future.”

This includes a ‘made in Canada’ solution which has so far been repeatedly ignored by Canadian politicians. The proposal included a cheque for $10,000 from The Humane Society of Canada to jump start and manage a federal government fund to buy back sealing licences and launch new initiatives to promote ecotourism.The animal charity also offered their expertise to enlist the goodwill of Canadians and others from around the world to match dollar for dollar the amount of money needed to end this cruel slaughter once and for all.

“In addition, billions of dollars are being lost through resulting boycotts of seafood, tourism and related industries and Canada’s international reputation continues to suffer because of their actions. Concerned groups have already announced their intention to boycott the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010. The harsh reality is that it has always been more expensive for Canadian taxpayers to pay for the annual seal slaughter than it would be to end it and pay sealers compensation and launch job training and skills programs,” says O’Sullivan.

Less than 0.015% of Canadian engages in killing seals during the short time frame that the hunt takes place. However, with no regard for their fellow 33 million Canadians, the sealers demand that everyone else’s tax dollars unfairly subsidize this failed industry – and even worse that the rest of us share the collective blame for the annual slaughter of seal pups.

Repeated surveys by the Government of Canada show that less than 5% of Canadians hunt any wildlife at all and that 9 out 10 Canadian support the protection and not the killing of wildlife. If it were not artificially propped up by distorting trade subsidies, the annual seal slaughter would have ended decades ago. Tax weary Canadians are tired of elected officials and civil servants misusing their hard earned money to support the slaughter of seals.

“Simply put, the seal hunt is an economic, political and animal protection disaster. It is a bad deal for people, animals and the environment. Every time a seal pup is killed the shock waves are felt across the country and throughout the economy and around the world for Canada.

For decades, millions of seal pups have been killed and elected officials have a real chance to respond to the more than 9 out of 10 Canadians who want to put an end to this terrible cycle of violence once and for all,” he says.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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EU seal import ban

“There is no humane way to kill a seal pup on vast ice fields under uncertain and constantly changing weather conditions with sealers experiencing fatigue and frustration. Even the Canadian Government now admits that overfishing and not seals are responsible for declining fish stocks,” according to HSC Chairman & CEO Michael O’Sullivan.

The first preliminary flawed European Community ban was passed in 1983 and then reaffirmed in 1986.However, it contained a legal loophole which only stopped the import of pelts and products from seal pups between the ages of 14 to 21 days and since that time millions of seal pups have been killed in the largest taxpayer funded slaughter of marine mammals on earth.The Canadian Government used this loophole to deliberately mislead its own citizens and the international community by telling them that seal pups were no longer being killed.The new and improved EU seal import ban closes that legal loophole for good. The vote passed 550 to 49 with 41 abstentions.

The ban will offer some exemptions to Inuit communities in Canada and Greenland so they can continue their traditional hunts of harp and hooded seals, but bars large-scale trading of pelts, oils or meats in the 27-state Europe Union.An earlier draft of the legislation would have left the door open for exemptions to countries that could certify their hunting methods are “humane” was struck from the proposed legislation.EU ports would remain open to the transhipment and re-export of seal products headed to other countries.

2009 Seal Hunt

Canada's commercial harp seal hunt is winding down after one of the quietest seasons in recent years. Hundreds of fishermen kept their vessels docked because of harp seal pelt prices that were almost one-tenth of what they were three years ago.Only 306 sealing enterprises from Newfoundland and Labrador have taken part in this year's hunt, compared with 977 last year, according to Larry Yetman, a resource management officer with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Out of this year's total seal quota of 338,200 so far 59,500 harp seal pups have been killed.

In 2006, harp seal pelts could fetch $105 from local buyers; however, since then prices have continued to plummet to this year’s estimated $14 per pelt.

Ottawa also knows that the $2.4 million price tag in lost income they blame on the EU ban is completely false. These figures represent the gross and not the net income earned by sealers.The figures fail to include the expenses incurred by sealers for such things as boats, fuel and their time.

Even more importantly, it also fails to take into account the massive artificial multibillion subsidies and campaigns funded by tax dollars which prop up the sealing industry and if allowed to stand on its on economic merits, the seal hunt would have ended decades ago.

Sealing is an industry that is not even financially viable and only exists because it is supported by the tax dollars through transfer payments received from other provinces.It is an industry that offers no substantive long-term employment in the region.

Finance Canada reports that since 2005 over $6.1 billion of taxpayers’ money has been sent from the rest of Canada to help the people of Newfoundland & Labrador.

In fact, the financial underpinnings of the seal hunt are so shaky that in recent years, the main focus has shifted to using tax dollars to encourage the brutal killing of seals to cultivate a trade in seal penises to China.A wild animal should only be killed for an important purpose.We cannot imagine a more egregious act of violence committed for a more unnecessary reason than to ship a dead seal’s penis to China for use as an aphrodisiac.

Canada’s seal hunt is the largest tax payer sponsored slaughter of marine mammals in the world.This year's quota has been set at 338,200 seals, an increase of 55,000 seals from last year. Last year's quota was increased to 275,000 an increase of 5,000 seal pups take in 2007 after warm temperatures melted the ice flows before the pups were able to survive in open water. The Canadian government predicted up to 90% pup mortality rate in some areas. 335,000 seals were killed in 2006. The seal hunt management plan for 2006 - 2010 will result in the killing of more than 1.3 million seal pups. The last time politicians allowed this many seals to be killed was during the 1950s and 1960s and it nearly decimated two thirds of the species.

Prejudicial and unfair treatment

And how have Canada’s politicians responded on behalf of its 33 million citizens?By threatening a legal challenge that will involve our three largest trading partners at the World Trade Organization – and by passing a unanimous Parliamentary motion (which has no force of law), that Canadian athletes wear seal skins at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics – a proposal firmly rejected by the Canadian Olympic Committee.

The Humane Society of Canada is of the view that this is a textbook case of “how not to conduct” international affairs and diplomatic efforts.Rather than making meaningful changes to end the seal hunt cruelty, instead Canadian politicians, civil servants and the sealers wasted billions of taxpayer dollars to mislead, intimidate and attack anyone who disagreed with them.

For example, under the law, pro-wildlife people who are given a permit to observe the seal hunt can be arrested, fined between $100,000 to $500,000 and also be imprisoned for between one to two years.In the past, individuals representing animal protection groups have been physically threatened and assaulted by sealers with the RCMP and DFO officials looking on; and have been arrested and had their vessels, records and equipment seized.

However, in March 2009, in one of the longest running cases in Canadian history which began following a government investigation in 1996, a Newfoundland judge found 10 out of 11 sealers guilty of killing and selling blueback seal pup skins – and gave them an absolute discharge, which means nothing happened to them.

Each year, sealers, with the full collusion of law enforcement officials, routinely play the “tag you’re it” game - with sealers moving too close to observers, and then claiming it was the observers’ who are at fault.Observers, along with journalists and their video cameras, are then removed from the scene, so that the slaughter funded by the rest of Canadian taxpayers can continue without being recorded.Although it is only the sealers’ word against the observers’ word, the sealers are allowed to continue with their activities.

Charges against observers are then delayed in court by sympathetic local prosecutors and judges until the following year, when every effort is then made to ensure that the observers do not receive further permits which can be withheld for any reason.

Each year, The Humane Society of Canada makes recommendations for a fair and impartial application of justice, and each year they are ignored in favour of what is in our opinion, a malicious and prejudicial system of law enforcement and prosecution:

Our recommendations and questions to the Canadian Government still go unanswered years later:

  • Please provide us with any examples where recommendations from legitimate animal protection organizations were followed vs. the number of recommendations from sealers, civil servants and elected officials that have been implemented;
  • In our opinion, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the requirement for observer permits is illegal and should be the subject of a taxpayer funded public challenge (please provide us with other examples of where such permits are required to observe any other hunting activity anywhere else in Canada);
  • Until a legal challenge can be mounted, in the interim, all sealers and observers be required to carry standardized GPS and laser range finding equipment with tamper proof seals that accurately records with a time and date stamp their precise location at all times;
  • In addition to records made by observers, professional broadcast quality audio and video footage must be taken and broadcast unedited each day by law enforcement personnel (this footage must also be made available on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ website for download and royalty-free use by the media and any other interested parties and it is the responsibility of DFO to ensure that this information is freely available at all times);
  • Observers should be allowed within ten feet of any sealer;
  • All law enforcement personnel should be drawn from Central or Western Canada and be required to sign a declaration that they have no friends or family participating or benefiting in any way from the seal hunt; and that they have never participated or benefited in any way from the seal hunt;
  • In the event of a dispute under these regulations that results in the removal of observers, then the sealers making the allegations must also be removed from the hunt for the same period of time;
  • Any allegations of corruption relating to law enforcement personnel, elected officials or civil servants should be rigorously investigated and if there is sufficient and admissible evidence, they should be prosecuted under civil and criminal law, with the full findings made public the same day as the case is decided;
  • All disputes or charges must be heard within three months by a federal court in Central or Western Canada, with the full findings made public the same day as the case is decided;
  • Beginning immediately, a projected budget and all actual costs of any description related to the seal hunt by any civil servant or elected official over the past five years must be a matter of public record with supporting documentation no later than 1st January of each year;
  • Beginning immediately, the four to five thousand sealers are personally required to bear all of the costs associated with the seal hunt.