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1971: Seals shot by government decree
The British Government has endorsed a cull of baby seals in the Wash.

Under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, the Home Office is allowing five fishermen to kill 350 seal pups off the Lincolnshire coast by the end of next week.

The new legislation is aimed at protecting the seal population from over-crowding and being killed indiscriminately.

Using motorised dinghies and high-powered rifles, the hunters have already killed 120 pups - aged one to three weeks - since they started three days ago.

Each expedition is monitored by the National Environment Research Council.

Seal shooter Tom Lineham said: "We are satisfied. Some of the pelts are very good. But I think we could have shot at least 100 more seals without any impact on the herds."

We could have shot at least 100 more seals without any impact on the herds
Seal shooter Tom Lineham

Sealing can be a lucrative business for the fishermen who can expect to make up to 12 per pelt. They are mainly traded in Scandinavia where they are made into handbags and coats. The carcasses are used for dog food or maggot-breeding.

The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare is concerned about illicit trading of live baby seals worth between 40 and 100 each.

The Federation's director, Major Walter Scott, said: "I have absolutely no doubt that there is traffic in seals. I am perturbed because there are more than 100 zoos in the United Kingdom and if each bought four or five seals it could have a serious effect on the number in the Wash."

He has also asked the government to ban hunting in areas easily accessible to the public.

The Wash is home to 5,000 common seals in 30 colonies and about 1,400 pups are born each year.

The National Trust is concerned about grey seals over-populating the Farne Islands off Northumberland and will announce in August whether culling should be enforced there.

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Hunter with dead seal
The hunters are allowed to kill 350 seals

In Context
In August 1971 the National Trust announced that 3,000 grey seal calves and their mothers were to be killed on the Farne Islands over three years.

It was the biggest ever cull undertaken by the National Trust to address the problems of over-crowding.

Seal culls were banned in 1978 after a public outcry when seal pups were shown being slaughtered on television.

In 2001 Scottish fishermen claimed that the growing grey seal population was depleting their fish stocks and demanded a return to culling. The Scottish Wildlife Trust pointed to other reasons and suggested a change in fishery policy.

Seals may only be killed where they directly interfere with fish catches. /CPS:BOX>

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