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09:52 - 30 March, 2005
Born Free
Massive Baby Seal Massacre Begins


Thousands of hunters armed with clubs, rifles and spears have begun the world's largest seal cull on the ice floes off eastern Canada.

Turning the ice red with blood, they killed hundreds of pups during the first day of the annual harp seal hunt.

The cull, which has been the target of protests since the 1960s, will mean the slaughter of up to 320,000 young seals on the floes and islands around Quebec's les de la Madeleine in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

"It's just horrific out there," said Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society of the United States. "There is blood all across the ice and seal carcasses as far as the eye can see. We've seen seals that were moving around and breathing, that have been left in these piles, some left conscious and crawling."

Animal rights campaigners, who claim the pups are often skinned alive, have begun a boycott of Canadian seafood products and are planning protests until the end of the cull on 15 May.

Despite an import ban imposed in the United States and the European Union, a growth in demand for seal pelts from eastern Europe and China led the Canadian government to issue a quota in 2003 that allows hunters to kill 975,000 seals over three years.

Canada says the seal population is "healthy and abundant" and three times the size it was in the Seventies.



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