Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Mammals: Seals

by Dick Mac

Seals belong to the same family as sea lions and walruses; collectively, they are known as pinnipeds. Some seals are referred to as sea lions.

Seals in captivity are popular attractions, and their size and adaptability make them easy to keep. Even the smallest zoos can afford to house and maintain seals or sea lions.

Seal fur and sealskin has been popular in the past, and though generally out of favor along with most other types of fur garments these days, seals, especially their pups, are still slaughtered en masse for their hides.

The first known commercial seal hunt occurred in 1515 when seal furs were imported to Spain and sold in the market at Seville. As ocean transport improved in the 18th Century, the seal trade increased dramatically.

By the mid-19th Century, the seal population had been seriously depleted; but it wasn't until the 1911 North Pacific Fur Seal Convention Treaty that any wildlife conservation was addressed.

Today, only Canada, Greenland, Namibia, and Norway hunt seals and protests against their slaughter have increased in the past decade. Many celebrities have taken a stance against fur, in general, and the seal hunt, in particular. Most famously, Brigitte Bardot and Paul McCartney have both appeared at the site of the seal hunt in in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to protest.

Many are particularly appalled by the method used to kill young seals. Although referred to as "clubbing," seals are killed with hakapiks, which are as gruesome as they sound: made of metal, there is a long, sharp pick on one side and a short, blade-like club on the other.

Hunters manually slaughter the seals, as can be seen in this video "Rebecca Aldworth and the Protect Seals team cover the cruel Canada seal hunt."

WARNING: This video contains graphic footage:

The Humane Society

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