The Love and Hate Story between China and Canadian Seal Hunts

China’s environmental groups have adopted March 1 as the International Seal Day. Like many international animal advocate groups, Chinese animal protection organizations are opposed to the commercial seal hunt in Canada.

Canada’s Commercial Seal Hunt Controversy

Canadian law prohibits people from interfering with the natural ecology of marine mammals such as seals. At the same time, however, the Canadian government has also approved the annual commercial killing of hundreds of thousands of seals, explicitly prohibiting the hunting of small seals with white fur and less than 12 days old.

People who support the commercial seal hunt say that the seals that Canadians mainly hunt are not endangered species, and the overproduction of seals may impact the ecosystem: if seals eat a lot of cod, the Canadian fishermen will lose cod resources. They stress that though seal hunting scenes tend to be bloody, Canadian seal hunting follows the highest standards of slaughter and fully satisfies the protection of animal welfare. They denied the existence of “live stripping seals” and “killing seal pups” accused by animal protectionists.

Seals are marine mammals with a gestation period of nine months. Female seals give births to one pup at a time, and the animals wean by the age of four to six weeks.
Credit: Abertay University

The voice against the commercial seal hunt is louder on a global scale. Animal advocates claim that 95% of the hunted seals were less than three months old because the seals are poor at swimming and foraging and reluctant to leave the ice, so they are more likely to be killed. Oceanographers who oppose the commercial killing of seals say that the reduction of Atlantic cod is associated with increased human fishing and has nothing to do with seals.

With the efforts of animal protectionists, 35 countries have banned commercial seal trade. Since the 1970s, more than 30 countries and regions including the United States, Mexico, Croatia, and the European Union have banned the import of seal products and the consumption and trade of seal fur. Because of consumer resistance, North American seal products are also rare. However, in some Asian markets, seal products are still selling well.

Canadian environmental and animal activists protest the commercial seal hunt.
Credit: AFP

China, Hong Kong and Taiwan Market

In 2011, news that the Federal Fisheries Department of Canada announced a new trade agreement so that China would start to import Canadian seal meat in the hopes that the Chinese market will compensate for the EU’s ban on the importation of seal meat.

In addition to China’s large market, Canada’s commercial seal industry also strives to lobby Asian countries and regions such as Hong Kong and Taiwan to import seal products.

However, under the resolute opposition of animal protection organizations from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and around the world, China does not seem to agree to open the world’s largest food and consumer goods market. The Chinese customs also imposed strict restrictions on seal products, but a trade ban has not been officially implemented. Hong Kong and Taiwan have also restricted the market for seal products from the government to consumers.

All information comes from www.bbc.com

Translated by Andrea Jia

Edited by Andrea Jia and Riley Peng @ Animal Dialogue

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