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Video prompts calls for more enforcement

The Story

It's a charge that just won't go away: inhumane hunters, suffering seals. The International Fund for Animal Welfare has released a video it says shows extreme cruelty during the 1996 sealing season. This time, it has a new ally: the Newfoundland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which has never before spoken out on the seal hunt. In this CBC News report, even the sealing industry is shamed by the scenes caught on tape.

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: Feb. 10, 1997
Guest(s): David Buffett, Fred Mifflin
Reporter: Maureen Brosnahan
Duration: 2:34

Did You know?

• Among many other bloody scenes, the video showed a sealer skinning a live seal after dragging it over the ice with a hook. Sealers were also seen laughing after finding a dead mutilated seal whose penis had been hacked off.
• IFAW identified a total of 144 violations of federal sealing regulations in the video.
• The footage was captured by IFAW members posing as photographers for a U.S. hunting magazine.

• On the basis of the video, seven sealers were charged with various violations under the Marine Mammal Regulations of the Canadian Fisheries Act. But the Newfoundland Court of Appeal threw out the video as evidence by in 2002 on the grounds that the Crown could not prove it was unaltered.
• In their ruling, the judges also said that the man who shot the video wasn't believable because he had obtained the footage under false pretences. (Source: Canadian Press, March 13, 2002)

• A similar video had been released one year earlier and as a result four sealers were charged and convicted of violating sealing regulations.
• Tina Fagan, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, said the video showed typical sealers just doing their jobs. "Killing is not pretty anywhere, whether it is on the ice... or in an abattoir," she said in response to the video.

• The federal fisheries minister, Fred Mifflin, and other seal hunt defenders accused IFAW of making the videos as an annual fundraising ploy. In 1996 IFAW said it spent more to fight the seal hunt between 1990 and 1995 than it collected from seal hunt opponents - about $8 million US was spent and $4.6 million raised in that time period.

• In 1996 the population of harp seals was about five million, and opponents could no longer cite conservation as a reason to curb the hunt. Instead, their focus shifted to ensuring seals were managed responsibly and killed humanely.
• After watching the 1996 video, veteran sealer Jack Troake said: "Now they're doing their job. They should be commended for bringing those sealers' behaviour to the attention of the proper authorities." (source: Financial Post, April 27, 1996)

• In 2002 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against a group of 101 Newfoundland sealers who had challenged the federal ban on hunting seal pups. The sealers had been charged in 1996 with unlawfully selling the pelts of blueback hooded seal pups.
• The basis of the sealers' challenge was that the federal government had no right to trample on provincial powers of trade and commerce.



Pelts, Pups and Protest: The Atlantic Seal Hunt more