Canada’s seal hunt draws opposition from high-profile stars

Pamela Anderson, pictured at an anti-seal hunt demonstration in Toronto in 2009. (John R. Kennedy / Global News). John R. Kennedy / Global News

VANCOUVER — The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ruling in favour of the European Union’s ban on imported seal products is a win for a lengthy list of celebrities who have spoken out against the commercial slaughter.

High-profile Canadian and international stars such as Sarah McLachlan, Pamela Anderson, Sir Paul McCartney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwen Stefani, Adrien Brody and Brigitte Bardot have called for the end to the hunt, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Bardot’s animal-rights organization, Fondation B. Bardot, tweeted a photo of Anderson following the WTO’s ruling Monday.

According to the WTO, although the ban undermines fair trade, concerns over animal welfare justified the restrictions. The Canadian government said it planned to appeal the ruling.

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McLachlan has previously, through PETA, called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end the commercial sealing industry.

“The commercial sealing industry in Canada is perverse and sick. … They club these seals as early as 12 days old, and half the time they hook them and they drag them across the ice. … It’s archaic, and it’s horrible, and I want it to stop,” she said.

In a 2011 interview, Anderson told Global News: “Nothing shocks me any more than that we still have the seal hunt and awful government officials not protecting the way they should. It’s really time for politicians to face the facts and end this thing for good.”

McCartney said he doesn’t think the majority of Canadians support the industry.

“Canada is known as a great nation,” he said. “But this is something that leaves a stain on the character of the Canadian people and we don’t think that’s right. I don’t think the vast amount of Canadians think that’s right.”

Martin Sheen has called the seal hunt inhumane.

“They will be shot, drowned in nets, clubbed, and sometimes even skinned alive. This annual ritual of blood and slaughter of the innocents must be stopped,” he said.

But there is one celebrity who supports the seal hunt: Chef Anthony Bourdain. Last month, he spoke out against a complete ban on the practice, taking particular issue with how it would affect indigenous communities in Canada’s north.

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Inuit communities feel the EU ban discriminates against Canadian seal products, although the restrictions only apply to commercially-harvested seal products.

Canada’s federal government defended the sealing industry, calling it “humane, sustainable and well-regulated.”

The commercial seal hunt off Newfoundland last spring landed about 91,000 harp seals, up from 69,000 the year before but far short of the federal quota of 400,000.

About 900,000 seals are hunted around the world each year, according to the European Commission. Countries that have commercial hunts include Canada, Norway, Greenland and Namibia.

Countries with bans on imported seal products include the U.S., Mexico, Russia and Taiwan. Ottawa has vowed to look at other markets for seal products, including China.

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With files from the Canadian Press

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