11.04.2017
Vera Weber

Canada: Seal Hunt Despite Import and Trade Bans

“A small Swiss organisation has played a decisive role in the import ban on seal products in Switzerland as well as in the EU,” writes the St. Galler Tagblatt in the introduction to an article on the seal hunt. We are talking about Fondation Franz Weber.

The article’s wording:

“What I observed during my visits in Newfoundland exceeded my worst fears.” Vera Weber is talking about the annual seal hunt in Canada. For the first time in 2006 and then again in 2011, 2012 and 2013, the president of Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) travelled to the Canadian east coast each April to observe the hunt, primarily for harp seals. What she describes and has recorded in videos for her environmental and animal protection organisation is difficult to put into words.

It is obvious that apart from the mass killing of three-week-old seals, even the most minimal animal welfare standards are disregarded. In the vastness of the pack ice, no one seems to be looking closely. From fishing boats, often more than 100 metres away, the hunters shoot at the seal pups on the ice. “The boats and the floes are rocking on the waves, the animals are moving,” illustrates the animal rights activist. “Accurate shooting is absolutely impossible.”

A lot achieved

Accordingly, the result. The seal pups are rarely dead right away. If they don’t fall into the water and drown, they often have to wait a long time for the hunters to collect and kill them. The horror does not end there. Vera Weber describes what the videos also show: “From the ship, with long poles, the hunters ram hooks through the heads of the still-alive animals and hoist them on board.” The fact that this is happening again off the coast of Newfoundland is “incomprehensible and unbearable”, Weber says.

At least FFW’s awareness-raising and campaigning work has achieved a lot. Since 1 April 2017, the import and trade of seal products has been banned in Switzerland. Seven years ago, FFW was able to win over the then National Councillor Oskar Freysinger (SVP VS) for the protection of seals. His motion was successful and is now being implemented.

Time to bring to an end

The small Swiss organisation also played a decisive role in the import ban on seal products that has been in force in the EU since 2010. In 2006, an EU parliamentarian and media people accompanied Vera Weber to the Labrador pack ice to observe the hunt for baby seals. The report of the parliamentarian, who was shocked by the cruelty and physical assaults of seal hunters to the witnesses, prompted the European Parliament to decide on an embargo against seal products in 2009. Switzerland is now following.

Meanwhile, Canada is still holding on to the seal hunt and has even opened it two weeks earlier than usual. Since 28 March, hunters have been on the road again to kill tens of thousands of baby seals. “A catastrophe for the harp seal population,” says Vera Weber outraged: “At the moment, the mother seals are still nursing their pups.” It really is time for Canada to end the seal hunt. “Until that happens, we will remain vigilant and continue to fight against the slaughter of baby seals.”

 

Read more about seal conservation on our project page.