Ice Blocking Canada's Seal Hunt

| Mon Mar. 31, 2008 7:56 PM EDT

HarpSeal.jpg Good news. Thick ice is slowing sealing boats from reaching the baby harp seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, reports Planet Ark. Consequently, only three pups out of a quota of 275,000 were killed the first day. This after last year's "hunt" was affected by a lack of ice. The Canadian government has promised the slaughter will be more humane this year. How? After a hunter shoots or clubs a seal, he now must check its eyes to ensure it is dead, and if not, the animal's main arteries must be cut.

Okay, let's get clear about this. That does not qualify as humane.

The Canadian seal hunt is the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals on Earth, according to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Just what are they doing with all those dead baby seals? The furs are made into coats and clothes. And there's a growing market for seal oil, high in omega-3 fatty acid… and PCBs:

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It is Sea Shepherd's opinion that Canada is misleading consumers by marketing seal oil in the health food industry as a "health" alternative. Seal oil contains bioaccumulative PCBs. A known animal carcinogen… PCBs are stored in body fat and are also dangerously bioaccumulated in the foodchain. Resistant to degradation, PCBs persist for many years in the environment. What Canada markets as benefits of seal oil is the Omega-3 and essential fatty acids. Sea Shepherd recommends these health supplements should be taken in plant form, such as hemp and flaxseed oils.

Meanwhile Agence France Press reports that a Canadian Coast Guard ship twice rammed Sea Shepherd's vessel the Farley Mowat while in the Gulf protesting the seal slaughter.

Alex Cornelissen, captain of the Farley Mowat, said in a statement his vessel was "twice rammed" in the port stern after he ignored warnings not to approach sealers on the third day of Canada's annual hunt. "They are ramming ships in dangerous ice conditions," Cornelissen said. "This is unbelievable. It's like the Coast Guard has declared war on seal defenders."

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.