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Monday, April 20, 1998 Published at 05:11 GMT 06:11 UK

World: Americas

Clubbing 'cruelty' on camera
image: [ Discarded seal bodies left on the ice ]
Discarded seal bodies left on the ice

Real Video: Harrowing images of cruelty in Emma Simpson's report for the BBC
Animal rights campaigners have released graphic video footage of seal culling in eastern Canada which they say shows at least 100 violations of anti-cruelty laws.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says it is turning the 10 hours of footage shot in the Magdalen Islands over to the police.

Canada allows sealers to kill a certain number of harp and hooded seals a year to protect depleted fish stocks and provide jobs in one of the most economically depressed regions of the country along the North Atlantic.

[ image: Many clubbers were unaware they were being filmed]
Many clubbers were unaware they were being filmed
This year's cull of about 285,000 seals is the largest yet.

The hunters are supposed to ensure they have killed each seal before moving on to the next one. But IFAW spokesman Mark Austen said activists following a hunt two weeks ago had witnessed horrific scenes.

"What we find was that instead of doing this, the sealers hit five, six, seven, sometimes up to eight or nine seals in a row and then take their time, going back and skinning and bleeding out the seals," he said.

"Eventually they get to the first seal they might have hit. That period can last up to six to 10 minutes. It's terrible. Some of the scenes we have seen are of immense cruelty. Seals screaming, wiggling round in pain and bleeding, and crying out."

Coast guard vessels were used to break a path through the ice for the seal cullers and IFAW claims Canadian government officials were also in the area where cruelty occurred.

[ image: IFAW wants to see hunters prosecuted]
IFAW wants to see hunters prosecuted
The seal trade once relied on the white fur of pups less than 12 days old and almost collapsed when they were protected by law in 1989.

But now there is a market for the mottled coat of older pups. Other pups are killed to supply the market in the Far East for the genitals of adult males.

IFAW last year spent more than $1m on a four-week television and print campaign in the United States which claimed that seals, mostly under a year old, were clubbed, skinned alive and sometimes impaled on hooks.

Together with other animal rights groups, it put pressure on the Canadian government to limit the hunt to about 60,000 seals a year during the 1980s and early 1990s.

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