Will Russia's Ban on Harp Seal Skins End Canada's Annual Mass Clubbings?

Matthieu Godbout/CC BY-SA 3.0

Update: Russia Bans Seal Fur Products, But Canada Looks to WTO to Stop It & Build Other Markets

In 2009, Russia banned the hunting of baby harp seals. Now the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation has taken things a step further with a complete ban on the trade of all products made from the skins of the threatened animals. The move follows a similar ban by the European Union in 2009 and is likely to have a major impact on the Canadian sealing industry, which sends 90% of its products to Russia.

Joseph Hatton & M. Harvey/Public Domain

Canada has so far resisted external and internal pressure to end the annual hunts for harp seals, which involve clubbing and sometimes shooting the animals to death, setting the quota for last spring's hunt at 468,200. But a low turnout that season, the impact of the EU ban and reduced profit margins all point to the decline of the practice.

Now that Russia, Belarus and Kazkhstan are no longer customers, next year's hunt may be a complete bust. Sheryl Fink of the International Fund for Animal Welfare wrote:

With the Russian market closed to harp seal fur products, and a long-promised deal to export seal meat to China at risk due to concerns over food security, the future looks bleaker than ever for the dying Canadian sealing industry. The time has come to acknowledge that the world does not want, nor need, cruel seal products.

It remains to be seen what will become of the Canadian sealing industry, but as of right now, things are definitely looking up for harp seals everywhere.

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Tags: Animals | Animal Welfare | Canada | Russia