International outrage at images of the brutal killing of seals by hunters on Canada's east coast in the 1970s brought a virtual halt to the practice.
But the Canadian government has given the go-ahead for more than 300,000 seals to be killed in Canada this year.
The cull began on Monday.
The Canadian government says the measure is necessary because the seal population is booming, causing the area's stocks of commercial fish - particularly cod - to dwindle.
But animal rights campaigners say seals are being scapegoated for the mismanagement of fish stocks, and that guidelines for the humane culling of seals are not being followed.
Are governments right to try and correct ecological imbalances through such methods? Is mass culling wrong, whatever methods are used? Are fashion retailers and consumers to blame, for creating a renewed demand for real fur?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
If seals need to be controlled, and I for one am in no position to dispute this, then please find a humane way to do it. This does not include a 100kg man beating a defenceless animal to half to death with a club. Come on Canada, pull yourselves together.
Jason Starling, Sydney, Australia
This is an outrage. As a Canadian, I am appalled that such horrendous cruelty can be carried out legally, sanctioned by the government of a normally peace-loving nation. This brutality is simply unacceptable.
Usman Jutt, Canada
Welcome to the uncivilised world. What a sad day. So the seals are eating 'our fish'? Surely humans can find alternative foods, seals cannot.
Mary J, London UK
I always try and see both sides of the story but this has just infuriated and disgusted me. If seals need controlling (and I am not in a position to comment on this, as I don't live in Canada) there are much more humane ways of 'pest control'. I felt ill last night watching these poor seals crying in pain, surrounded by other dead and dying animals. I personally feel that this in cruelly barbaric in our supposed civilised world and that we have no right to inflict pain and suffering on any animal or human. If however these people cruel people feel they must continue, they certainly don't have my support but please could they use a less violent and vicious method.
The culling of animals is routine if their numbers grow at such a rate or to such a level that other species (or indeed their own) will be at risk. Don't get me wrong, I like seals, but the fact that they are more "cute" than other animals doesn't make them any less valid to be culled. People should stop being sentimental about this and recognise that the cull is being done for a good reason.
Steve P, Reading, England
There are five million seals in Canada! We've got them in our city harbours. They're everywhere! A country that gave the world Greenpeace and wilderness parks that are bigger than Belgium, can figure out how to cull a few seals in a humane way without an impact on the ecosystems.
Mike, Vancouver, Canada
It's lucky that cod aren't cuddly with big sad eyes otherwise this would be such a difficult issue.
Steve B, Edinburgh, Scotland
I like the idea of the consumer objecting to various activities by spending their money elsewhere.
As long as the animals are killed humanely and for ecological reasons then I can't see a problem. I would much rather have stocks of cod in ten years then an over run population of seals. These things happen all the time pest animals need to be culled to ensure other animals survival.
Conrad Wells, Tunbridge Wells
Culling seals cannot be compared to animals being slaughtered in abattoirs, under strict regulations (and no, I'm not kidding myself that these regulations are followed by all of the people, all of the time). This is a government giving permission for people to beat animals to death. How can it possibly be right?
Charlotte, Wakefield, England
The only creatures that have inadequate natural controls are humans. We have engineered ourselves to live far longer than nature intended and create so much destruction just for our own self interest. The vast majority of the world's ills stem from the fact that our population is out of control. Pollution, hunger, war, power, environmental disaster etc. We are only mammals like the seals when it comes down to it - what makes us so special?
Martin, Ely, UK
The killing of the seals is an absolute disgrace. The Canadian government should be ashamed. We should be thankful we aren't all getting clubbed over the head because there's too many of us. The pictures I have seen have shocked and upset me. I was considering going to Canada in the summer - now that's out of the question.
Marie, Liverpool, England
Culling is necessary and culling the seal pups may be the most effective way in which to do so. However the method the Canadians chose to kill the pups is intolerable and there must be another way to manage this population. If it has to be done it should be done in a way which is humane. It should be done by people without a quota, so it is not dependant on the numbers that they kill. Other methods such as sterilisation should be considered.
Jennifer Cutting, UK
I think that the current seal cull is absolutely barbaric and not the sort of thing a civilised nation should be contemplating let alone participating in. I seriously believe that Governments around the world should be expressing their condemnation to the Canadian Government. Nature has its own way of dealing with matters to quote a famous phrase "Nature finds a way" without the intervention of barbaric human beings. I hope that we can set up a nationwide campaign/petition to express our abhorrence to the Canadian Government.
Kare Bywalec, Aberdeen - Scotland
I feel that this is a disgusting practice, where do we have the right to kill defenceless animals just because their numbers are becoming too huge - I don't recall humans becoming God. This is an outrage and should be stopped - the practice of culling should stop - all animals have a right to live peacefully on this planet too, it is their home as well.
Sarah Sutherland, London, UK
I am completely outraged! Who do we think we are as a human race to go around and inflict such horrific and painful death on poor defenceless animals? It's barbaric! I, for one, have to help those fighting against this. We need to all stand together and stop this once and for all, we cannot let this continue.
Claire, Cardiff, Wales
You would think that in the 21st Century that we would have a little compassion for other species that inhabit this small rock that we coexist on. Even if such a cull is needed I am sure that there are more painless methods than those shown today. I am glad I saw those images and regret that I had to see them. Green Peace or The World Wild Life Society has gained another fund raiser. I feel ashamed to be called human!
Adrian Smith, South Derbyshire
I have just seen tonight's news regarding the seal cull. Controlling a group of animals that have grown to large is acceptable. But this must be done in a humane and quick way. Allowing any animal to suffer unnecessarily is not fair or acceptable. Everything possible must/should be done to stop this situation now!
Mrs. Diane Blackie, Carshalton, Surrey.
Canadians have always seemed a sensible lot to me. If they feel they can maintain adequate breeding populations and harvest seals in their own country, why not let them manage their own affairs? I don't buy the argument that culling seals is necessary, but neither do I buy arguments against the practice by people who wear animal products and eat meat. I wonder how many sheep, cattle, and fowl were killed in the UK during the last year?
LaMont Albertson, Anchorage, Alaska USA
I think it's absolutely disgusting the way these animals are being killed. I have just watched a sealer 'club' a seal pup to death, he then said that if we knew why it was done we would not see it as inhumane. I fail to see how this kind of slaughter could be called anything but inhumane!
Are we back in the Dark Ages? Clubbing living creatures to death? Shame on all of us for allowing this horrifying brutality. If a cull is necessary (questionable) then a far more humane method could easily be found!
Shelagh Rogers, Northampton England
Being at the top of the food chain is not justification for such an act of barbaric proportions - obviously 'economic factors' are an issue. But when that reason is used for acts such as this it is nothing but a shield used to hide the fact that the real problems with the world are caused by us as humans and not an abundance of seals or any other animal. People should open their eyes to the wider picture. As for the people responsible for this latest act of unbelievable cruelty, they should be ashamed.
Gareth Collier, York, England
We cull them or nature does when the fish stocks have been depleted. It's not pleasant but it is necessary. I abhor the clubbing. There must be a better way.
Msmo, London UK
Inhumane? Seals aren't humans. We should stop treating animals like they are humans and start treating them like animals. If seal numbers are too great then a cull is justified.
Watching the news last night and being confronted with the slaughter of the seal's turned my stomach, too think that such a thing is still tolerated in the 21st century really is beyond my comprehension. It has destroyed my faith in the human race and I am questioning my decision to have children. Killing baby seal's is no sport and I do not believe it has anything to do with the fish stocks, it is all to do with money. Canada is off my list of countries I wish to visit.
Victoria Whyatt, England
The fishing fleets of Canada have state of the art technology i.e. Sonar to find the shoals of fish, but they are no match for the mighty seal who keeps pinching their fish (and only theirs). For some strange reason I thought the seal eats fish to survive while the human has a somewhat larger choice on his daily menu. So the Canadians will have to cull the seals as they are unfair competition against the fishing fleets with all their technology. We can only hope that the hunters will go to the expense of investing in a bullet for each seal they kill and make it quick for the animals. But somehow I get the impression that there will also be a lot more fur coats around this coming winter on the streets of Milan, Rome, New York etc.
An unworthy activity from a country of great people.
Hugh, California, USA
It's sick, and a 'sport' reserved for the intellectually challenged. There is a right way and a wrong way of solving a problem; I want an end to this deviant behaviour once and for all. There's far too much blood being shed throughout the world, nothing is sacred and no one is safe.
Helen Ross, Newcastle, UK
It's only as bad as what goes on in slaughterhouses. Maybe we should reform our slaughterhouses before we go commenting on what the Canadian government should do.
Fred, Cambridge, UK
I have always thought this to be totally inhumane and the recent disturbing scenes shown on the news confirm this. Pictures showing seals that have been clubbed and left crying in agony while they bleed to death prove that there is nothing humane about this cull. What kind of person could to that to another living creature? It appals and sickens me to think that the Canadian government allows these sadistic seal hunters to carry out these brutal killings. Barbaric acts like this should be stopped.
Mrs Tracy Stopford, Ayrshire, Scotland
The seal cull has brought back all the traumatic emotions of a teenage that turned vegetarian 18 years ago as a direct result of the seal culling then. Someone explain to me the progress that we constantly lament. The human race, so proud are we. It's got nothing to do with "cute" and "cuddly", its simply suffering. We can all hang our heads in shame.
Beverley Jane Elmer, Portsmouth, England
This is an internal Newfoundland and Labrador issue. The rest need to keep their bleeding hearts and minds to themselves. This was not an issue before confederation and should not be now!
Mike, Concord, CA
I have complete faith in what the Canadian government is doing. They are one of the most environmental friendly countries in the industrial world. Just cross from the US to Canada and you'll know what I am talking about.
Behzad, Washington DC
I know the methods of culling these animals can be barbaric, and that's wrong... But why is it only the cute cuddly creatures that we hear these up-roars about?
Paul Sealey, Cannock, England
I think it is barbaric. What right do we have as a human race to kill anything that gets in our way? I feel physically sickened by this. They are no better than the fox hunters. I tell you on their head be it when they are an endangered species in a couple of years.
Terri, Sutton, England
So sad that the Canadians have sunk so low - this week they are turning their ice flows from bright white to blood red - I hope they are proud of themselves. Lack of fish is a pathetic excuse - too many human beings is the real problem.
Wendy Girling, UK
Absolutely. To assume that we live in some neo-Eden where animal populations need no management is naive and anthropomorphic. As the number one species on this earth, whether you like it or not, we have changed the balance of nature so dramatically, that it is our obligation to control populations that no longer have adequate natural controls on them.
David M, San Diego, USA
Make no mistake, if the seas around the UK were not so devoid of fish and the grey and common seals we have were not so disease-ridden, we would also be controlling the population of UK seals... just like the Canadians. On balance, I think I prefer the Canadian method... its a heck of a lot more natural to cull down to an acceptable level than it is to breed up to one.
Graham, Oldham, UK
As usual it seems that animals have to lose their lives for human gain. I note the reason is for the cull is commercial fishing. Surely it would be wiser to restrict the quota of fish trawlers are allowed to catch although frequently this quota is exploited. Mass culling is wrong - whatever method is used it should be stopped. I sincerely question the morals of the individuals concerned.
Lorraine Allen, London England
The seal hunt in Canada is necessary at this time because of the growing seal population. I have friends in Newfoundland who tell of seals going into the rivers and into the communities. People protest about the killings because they don't understand the problem. It's okay to cull other animal populations if they get out of control but it's not okay to cull the seals? They may look cute and cuddly but they're not. Grow up and try researching the problem.
Who are we to decide how many of any animal is allowed to live. The argument that these seals are causing the diminishing number if fishing stock is ridiculous. Fish is this animals' main food supply so why can't they eat it, man has many food sources and we should not have the power to cull another species just because they are eating what comes naturally. How these people can live with themselves is beyond me!
Joanne, Glasgow, Scotland
I think this is completely inhumane and barbaric. Even if seals did require culling, which I think is based on a premise of blaming seal populations for problems which humans are directly or indirectly responsible for, there could at least be humane and responsible methods used rather than this horrific practice.
Adele Major, Amsterdam, Netherlands
It is really appalling. Why not sterilize them instead of killing them in a very brutal manner? I am very angry. Personally I am boycotting all Canadian products and cancelling my future holidays to Canada.
Jacques (James) Bougnon, Paris, France
Although I am an animal lover, I see the need to cull certain species when they become uncontrollable. As long as it is humane and does not involve clubbing the poor things to death, then I guess it must be done. I agree with others who have pointed out that we do not cause such a stir for cows/sheep etc - its just accepted. What I don't agree with is those awful people who think they look good in real fur - Trust me - you don't! Let's hope this cull is for food and not for vanity.
Rebecca, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, UK
When will we all realise that a healthy economy does not require us to kill other creatures to provide our own existence. Killing any animal breaks my heart, but especially the brutal killing of these gentle creatures. How can anyone with any shred of human decency approve or ignore such reports as seals being skinned alive. Please Canada, stop this. BBC, thank you for giving us voice and please let us know what else we can do to protest.
Sue Coleman, Borough Green, UK
You have it wrong guys. The seals are not "clubbed" to death. I find it sad that people are so uninformed and quick to provide negative comments on this harvest. It is the same old propaganda, spun by the animal rights groups. How about showing the same amount of coverage and concern, for the "human" victims of senseless war.
Fergus Donagher, St John's, Newfoundland
It seems unbelievable that the cull of seals in Canada has recommenced. This was a barbarous and inhumane practice 30 years ago and remains so today. How can we ever learn to treat each other humanely and live in balance with the earth, when we continue to see life around us as nothing more than a resource to be ravaged and exploited?
Lesley Thiel, UK
Canadian seal culls - more ' tradition' we can do without?
Carl Ball, Liverpool, UK
Canada is again slaughtering seal pups. The claim is that the seals endanger fish stocks when really it is over fishing that has reduced fish stocks. Is there any way to stop the Canadians from this barbaric practice?
Roger Jackson, England
While this act is certainly sad I would not have objections so long as the seals are killed humanely. This means no clubbing but rather using a rifle. One nice thing though... it's nice to have the oh so sophisticated Canadians over the rail on this barbaric practice.
Eric, Denver, USA
One fact people must consider is that the east coast seal population is now over six times as large as in the 1970s and currently stands at over six million seals. The annual hunt is necessary to keep the seal population under control. People from other countries should know all the facts and information before they criticize someone else. How is killing seals any different from killing cows or pigs?
Patrick Power, Boston, MA
I understand the environmental/economic reasons behind the cull, I just hope that the seals are used (food and material) and not simply wasted. There is enough misuse and waste of nature.
Al Mandolini, Toronto, Canada
This seal hunt is outrageous! The only allowable hunt should be for meat only! Perhaps the cod fisheries mis-management program officials should be clubbed!
Pat Dillon, Rosemount, MN, USA
Grow up people, seals kill fish to survive. Seals take (kill) 40% of the spawning salmon in the northwest. There are too many seals. Culling is needed world wide.
Pat, San Francisco
I had the pleasure of spending some time in Newfoundland a few years ago. I think the locals, who know their environment better than the rest of us, should have final say on the matter. If they were rats or warthogs, no one would be making such a commotion.
Buck, Detroit, MI
With the economy of the east coast of Canada so dependent on the seal business and fishing, I do not see much harm in this hunt. Canada always hunts seals and this year the quota has gone up because of the rapid increase of seals in Canadian waters and major depletion of the fish they eat. One thing that everyone would want to see is a more humane process for the kills. The pictures of hunters with the bats in sway do nothing but cause uproar.
John, New York City, USA
Why not? I wear leather shoes and sit on a leather sofa - I would eat seal meat. I do not care for fur. Grow up Europe (or are you all of a sudden 400 million vegans?). Oh yes, and stop stealing our fish from what is left on the East coast of Canada.
RJ, Toronto, Canada
I believe that the single greatest test of our humanity is our attitude to creatures others than us, especially helpless and vulnerable ones. I also believe that in a world where money affects every aspect of life and lurks behind every corner, it may still be put to good use. Politically and ethically motivated consumption is, in that respect, an important weapon of making one's voice heard. Boycotting Canadian goods and cancelling holidays to that country is a way of drawing attention to issues not perceived of immediate interest or relevance yet which I would consider simply barbaric and inexcusable.
Edward Kasabov, Sofia, Bulgaria
Next time we congratulate ourselves on how far we've come as a civilisation, we need only look at this as an example of how we really haven't moved too far from the cave.
Peter Rolita, Kitchener, Canada
There is nothing humane or right about killing so many seals, but I don't see how this is much more different then the mass slaughter of cows, chickens, pigs, baby cows (veal), that goes on in most countries. Just because seals are cute doesn't mean they are entitled to rights that other animals aren't entitled to. I would take the protests seriously if they also attacked the brutality of the slaughterhouse and commercial mass farms.
Martin, Ottawa, Canada
I would like to remind everybody that even Greenpeace will not support the actual campaign against the killing of seals. Why such a prestigious organisation will not support this campaign? Because they have done their homework and discovered, like the Canadian government, that the seals are indeed booming in numbers and their culling is an absolutely normal practice done in the best manner possible.
Michel Guibert, Montréal, Canada
Seal cull is very necessary if the fish stocks are ever to rebound. Each seal kills 100lbs of fish per day by ripping open the gut. They only eat about 5lbs per day but they like to kill.
Gerald Whitman, New Glasgow, Canada
Barbaric - a disgrace to our country and will not solve the fish problem whatsoever.
Phyllis Caughey, Victoria, Canada
The real disgrace is people who put animals in front of fishermen's livelihoods. One shouldn't base environmental management techniques on animal cuteness. Science and a balancing of human and ecological factors must be used. Otherwise you are just a cute animal imperialist.
Andy, Charlottesville, USA
This is a huge mistake. How can the Canadian government allow such a terrible thing to happen?
Nick, Los Angeles, USA
This is disgraceful - the Canadian government is acting cruelly and stupidly in permitting a short term measure which will cost them more tourist dollars in the long run than any seal pelts are worth.
David Walker, Aberdeen, UK
Seals are undeniably cute. However, this is not a reason to refrain from harvesting a natural resource in a sustainable manner.
Ben Jolley, Frankston, Australia
Simply put, this is Canada's shame!.. Lets see some letters trying to defend this barbarous practice.
Peter Hewett (Ex Pat), Toronto, Canada
We humans are mass killers of all other species. For food, for fun, for clothing. For food we kill to fill our famous club sandwiches. Turkey, chicken, cows, sheep, pigs, fish, snails, lobster, etc. For fun we hang our trophies on our walls and brag about the big one that got away. For clothing we kill cute cuddly rabbits, beaver, fox, mink etc. We fish the oceans until they are dry. You can see them flopping in any market in any harbour. Lobster are kept in tanks right in our finest restaurants to be selected to be eaten by the models and actors before they go to a shoot to do an ad for the cuddly seals. Just like in life cute and cuddly wins on the big screen while cold and prickly does not.
A Gross, Dartmouth, Canada
The Canadian government is doing the right thing because over the past years there has been a very big increase of seals. It has to be controlled otherwise they will eat all the few remaining fishes like the cod. Animal rights groups and people like Brigitte Bardot are doing propaganda with graphic pictures without looking at this problem objectively.
G Jamal, Montreal, Canada