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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 01:58 GMT
Canada gives seal hunt go-ahead
Seals on ice floe near St Johns in Canada
Canada says the seal population has exploded
Canada has given the go-ahead for what is expected to be one of the biggest seal hunts in the country for decades.

The government says the hunt is now more humane and that more than 300,000 seals can be killed this year.

The seal population is reaching record levels as commercial fish stocks are vanishing, the authorities say.

Animal rights campaigners, who say the hunt is cruel, have called for a boycott of Canadian seafood before the hunt which is due to start on 29 March.

The two-month hunt takes place on ice floes off the Atlantic coast where the seals give birth.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a statement that Canada's seal population was healthy and abundant.

"The harp seal herd - the most important seal herd for this industry - is estimated at around five million animals, nearly the highest level ever recorded, and almost triple what it was in the 1970s."

Large-scale hunting will be allowed to continue until the number falls to under four million.

One official told the AFP news agency: "We have to do our job responsibly. We are looking at the middle ground, taking into account conservation and the economic needs of the region."

Uncomfortable images

But anti-hunt activists, who say many animals are skinned alive and die in agony, say they will press ahead with the boycott.

"I think that [the Canadian government] are feeling the heat... they can see the really serious implication of going ahead with the hunt this year," said Pat Ragan, of the Humane Society of the United States.

"We're going to be encouraging consumers to enter into dialogue with their grocery stores and their restaurants and say 'Please don't serve Canadian seafood' or 'I won't buy Canadian seafood until this hunt is over'," she told Reuters news agency.

The seal hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador went into decline some 25 years ago, after images of hunters clubbing infant seals horrified TV viewers across the world.

Canada completes main seal cull
14 Apr 04 |  Americas
Canada seal hunt draws protests
13 Apr 04 |  Americas

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