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From NBC, March 3, 2006:
Canada’s controversial annual hunt for seal pups hasn’t even started yet, but already this year the battle looks like a high-profile one, with singer Paul McCartney and his wife taking to the frigid ice floes off the Atlantic Ocean to protest.
Animal rights activists contend the killing of the doe-eyed baby seals, who are often clubbed to death, pierced with boat hooks or skinned alive, is cruel and unnecessary, but fishermen say they badly need the income.
Phil Jenkins, a spokesman for Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said the activists who arranged the trip were misleading the public since white-coated seals have not been hunted since 1987. The seals’ white coats disappear after a few weeks, replaced by a spotted gray and white fur that eventually disappears completely as the seal matures.
“We see this every year. It’s the celebrity of the year. This year’s celebrity has a bit higher candlepower than last year’s but the facts of the hunt are that it’s more humane than ever, it’s growing as an economically viable industry and the herd is in fantastic shape,” he said. […]
The McCartneys, dressed in orange thermal jumpsuits, on Thursday traveled in helicopters with a dozen journalists, and members of the Humane Society of the United States and the British-based Respect for Animals.
Hundreds of seals and their fluffy white pups, only days old, were lolling on the ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the mothers taking breaks from nursing to bob in the water to fish. The pups will shed their white fur within two weeks, when they become game for fishermen, who get up to $70 each for their pelts and blubber.
The former Beatle acknowledged residents have hunted seals for hundreds of years.
“Well, in our view, that doesn’t make it justifiable,” he said. “Plenty of things have been going on for a long time, like slavery. Just because it’s been going on for a long time doesn’t make it right.”
The McCartneys rolled on the ice with one pup, which gently nipped at Heather Mills McCartney and mewed for its mother. She expressed sadness it and others would likely be killed in a few weeks, their pelts going mostly to Norway, China and Russia.
“They sell the baby seal skins for fashions and fur — that’s what’s so horrific about it,” said Mills McCartney.
The former Beatle implored fishermen to turn instead to ecotourism like whale watching, as communities have done along the Atlantic Coast.
“This is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth,” he said. “It’s very rare that you can come to a beautiful, wild place like this. In our view, it would make more sense to look at ecotourism.” […]
Last updated on October 13, 2020