Canada has declared its annual seal cull - which this year will see off more than 280,000 seals - as "humane, sustainable and responsible", despite protestors' claims to the contrary.
Canadians are expected to go out clubbing in force* in the next few days in the Gulf of St Lawrence and around Newfoundland to reduce the 5.5 million harp seal population by 275,000 and the 600,000 head count of the hooded seal by 8,200, the Telegraph reports. It last year authorised the extermination of 224,000 individuals - of which 98 per cent were pups under the age of three months, according to cull opponents.
While Harp seals have" never been considered endangered", Robbie Marsland of the International Fund for Animal Welfare claimed the slaughter of so many pups will "inevitably have serious consequences for the future of the harp seal population".
He elaborated: "Scientists predict that annual hunts at this level could reduce the population by 70 per cent in the next 15 years."
Protestors have launched a combined thespo-maritime assault on the cull, throwing Brit actress Alison Steadman into the fray backed by direct intervention by ecowarriors Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The former was in Canada ealier this month to "raise awareness about the impact of the fur trade on seal populations". Having seen seal mums nursing pups on ice sheets off Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Steadman declared: "It is tragic that Canada's pristine ice floes are now remembered as the place where millions of seal pups are bludgeoned to death, where the largest most brutal marine mammal hunt in the world continues to take place every year."
The latter, meanwhile, says its vessel the Farley Mowat will sail to the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland to "intervene directly in the hunt". Canada has warned any such action would be in contravention of international maritime law. ®
*As the Telegraph explains, the commercial seal hunting season "lasts from mid-November to mid-May but most of it occurs in late March and the beginning of April".