Canada is among the five countries that still allow commercial hunting of harp seals. Canadian seal hunting is largest in the world and its largest market lies in Norway. Today’s iconic photograph was taken by Duncan Cameron in 1969. It shows a Canadian seal hunter about to bludgeon the head of a seal pup. Mother of pup is also visible in the background. This photograph became iconic symbol for conservation, animal welfare, and animal rights advocates.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of female harp seals come to ice platforms off the east coast of Canada. Each of them gives birth to a single pup. Soon after the breeding season begins, thousands of hunters begin to arrive on the icy shore to kill these seals. The Canadian government regulates the seal hunting and every year determines the “Total Allowable Catch” or TAC. In 2010, the TAC quota was 330,000 seals. This means that the hunters were allowed to kill 330,000 seals for each of which they will be paid by the fur traders.
In Canada, now, it is not allowed to kill newborn seals (called “whitecoats”). When the seal pups begin to molt their downy white fur at the age of 12–14 days, they are called “ragged-jacket” and can be commercially hunted. Peta Hellard mentioned, in an article published in the Herald Sun on March 29, 2008, that the fishermen sell seal pelts mostly for the fashion industry in Norway, Russia and China, as well as blubber for oil, earning about $85 a seal. The slaughter of some 335,000 seals in 2006 brought about $27 million.
The government asks the Canadian Coast Guards to break ice to make way for the hunting boats. Legally the hunters can use any of the three weapons to kill seals. They can use firearms but most of the hunters do not find it cost-effective to fire bullets and therefore resort for the option of a heavy wooden club that looks like a baseball bat. The third allowed weapon is a traditional Norwegian pole-and-hook instrument known as a hakapic. The seals – which are about 11kg at birth and grow to about 36kg after 12 days of feeding on their mothers’ fat-rich milk – are usually bludgeoned to the head and dragged by a hook along the ice.
Seal hunting is a practice that is denounced all over the world. The US government has banned Canadian seal products since 1972 and the European Union banned the white pelts of baby seals in 1983. Russia, which is one of the five seal hunting countries, in 2009 banned killing of harp seals less than one year old.
What do you think of this photograph? Please comment and give your feedback as it helps me in writing better content for my readers. Thank you for reading and stay connected with my website as I will continue to bring stories on more iconic photographs for you.