Canadian Seal Hunt: A Summary

Harp seal pups are an average of 25 days old when killed during the hunt. They typically lose their white coat around 18 days.

Harp seal pups are an average of 25 days old when killed during the hunt. They typically lose their white coat around 18 days. Photo credit: myheimu via photopin cc.

Animal rights activists have long opposed the annual seal hunt, saying that the hunting methods are cruel and unethical. Those involved with the hunt, including hunters, Inuits and the fur industry, maintain that it is a sustainable, ethical and important tradition.

This season, the seal hunt is gaining more attention than usual because seal hunt advocates recently challenged the European Union to lift their ban on seal products.

The EU implemented a ban on seal products three years ago, but last month, a group that included the Canadian Fur Institute, the seal processing industry and one of the largest Inuit groups joined to ask the EU to lift that ban, saying that it violates the EU’s World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations. The Inuit are still allowed to sell seal products in Europe, but they feel if the ban no longer existed, their market would expand.

After brief discussion, the EU decided to maintain the existing ban, thrilling animal rights activists and disappointing advocates of the hunt. Although some say that even if the ban was successfully overturned, it wouldn’t have created an immediate demand for seal products because when the ban was initially adopted, it had major support.

In a joint statement from the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and Minister for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and the Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, they write “the ban on seal products adopted in the European Union was a political decision that has no basis in fact or science” and that “the facts are that the Canadian seal hunt is sustainable and humane.”

Meat from a harp seal.

Meat from a harp seal. Photo credit: Kim Hansen.

“The hunt is well-regulated and uses practices that have been scientifically proven to be humane,” they write. Many people claim that these methods are no worse than those used in deer hunting which is widespread in the EU.

They continue to say that “the seal provides healthy, traditional sustenance for many coastal Canadians, practical and beautiful pelt products and jobs for many families in rural areas.”

In fact, according to the Fisheries Department, the hunt employs about 6,000 people, part-time during the season. And as for ‘traditional sustenance,’ one article suggests that seal meat is actually “the ultimate farm to table food” because it is sustainable, wild caught and hormone free.

To learn more, check out some of these links:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Good article, but I’m always amazed to see scientist talk about anti-hunt groups as if they had any kind of credibility. These groups don’t believe in sustainable use of abundant, wild, natural and renewable resource. If you don’t believe in such a basic principle, how can you be trusted in your claims?

  2. Emily says:

    Well this post is simply a summary of the EU’s decision to uphold the ban on seal products. No scientific opinions here. However, I think the joint statement by the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq and the Honourable Keith Ashfield did a pretty good job of explaining why the seal hunt is, at the very least, a well regulated hunt that employs a lot of people.

  3. Your article doesn’t mention that the Dept of Fisheries and Oceans doesn’t attend the seal hunt, therefore it can’t be regulated.