Canada celebrates “Seal Day on the Hill 2016”

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Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Hunter Tootoo, and Parliamentary Secretary and Member of Parliament for Labrador, Yvonne Jones, issued the following statement regarding Seal Day on the Hill 2016:

“Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is proud to partner with the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association (NACA) to make the 2016 edition of Seal Day on the Hill a success. This important event puts a human face on Canada’s sealing industry and sends messages that need to be heard across the country and around the world.

“Seal harvesting is an important part of the traditional way of life in the North. It is a valuable source of food and income for thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous families in remote coastal communities in the Arctic,  Quebec and Atlantic Canada. A vibrant Inuit cultural industry supporting the production and sale of clothing, fashion, art and other products is also deeply linked to sealing.

“Sealing is also about health; in addition to the high nutritional value of seal meat, Inuit have been using seal oil to treat ailments for centuries. Seal oil, a rich source of omega-3, has also been sold in Europe, Asia and Canada for a decade.

Canadian seal harvesting is sustainable, guided by rigorous animal welfare principles, and well-regulated. Our seal industry fuels an economy that works for everyone and the Government of Canada believes that it deserves to be protected and promoted.”

Canadian harvesting practices are among the best in the world. They are guided by rigorous animal welfare principles that are internationally recognized by independent observers.

The Government of Canada has strict science-based regulations, which are reviewed regularly, to ensure a humane harvest. In 2009, a number of amendments to the Marine Mammal Regulations (MMR) came into force to further enhance the humaneness of the Canadian seal harvest. The amendments were developed based on recommendations from the Independent Veterinarians Working Group, with members from Canada, France, the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, the sealing industry, and others. The MMR stipulate the proper technique and specific types of tools to use that ensure seals are harvested humanely.

The three-step process

Canada’s science-based, three-step process ensures that animals are harvested quickly and humanely. Developed and implemented based on the recommendations from the Independent Veterinarians Working Group, the three-step process is as humane – if not more so – than most other methods of dispatching wild or domesticated animals in the world.

All harvesters wishing to participate in the commercial seal harvest must have completed training on the three-step process for harvesting seals, as set out in the Marine Mammal Regulations (MMR) in order to renew their licence.

Although there is currently a freeze on professional sealing licences, licensing policy requires a commercial harvester to work under an experienced harvester for two years to obtain a professional licence. In addition to the two-year apprenticeship program for new harvesters, governments, industry and other stakeholders deliver comprehensive information workshops in advance of each season.

The three-step process also applies to harvesters with personal use licences. The three steps are:

  1. Striking — the seal harvesters must shoot or strike animals on the top of the cranium, with either a firearm or ahakapik or club.
  2. Checking — the seal harvesters must palpate both the left and right halves of the cranium, following striking (either with a firearm, hakapik or club), to ensure that the skull has been crushed. This ensures the seal is irreversibly unconscious or dead.
  3. Bleeding — the seal harvester must bleed the animal by severing the two axillary arteries located beneath the front flippers and must allow a minimum of one minute to pass before skinning the animal. Bleeding ensures the seal is dead.

Despite the suggestions by anti-sealing groups, seals are not skinned alive, as concluded by independent international veterinarians and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) experts. Sometimes a seal may appear to be moving after it has been killed because seals show muscle activity, referred to as a swimming reflex, even after death. This reflex gives the false impression that the animal is still alive, similar to the reflex seen in chickens when killed. – CINEWS

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