International Fund for Animal Welfare

International Fund for Animal Welfare

December 19, 2007 13:15 ET

EFSA Report to European Commission Finds Canada's Commercial Seal Hunt Inhumane

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 19, 2007) - The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) today released its report on the Animal Welfare Aspects of Seal Hunting, finding there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the Canadian government's claims that its commercial seal hunt is 'humane'.

"For too long the Canadian Government has deceived the public about this cruel hunt. IFAW is delighted that the EFSA scientific opinion sets the record straight-Canada's commercial seal hunt is inherently inhumane," said Sheryl Fink, IFAW Canada Senior Researcher.

"The Canadian government's claim that 98% of the seals are killed humanely in the commercial seal hunt is exposed in the report as being scientifically incorrect. This report reveals the truth about Canada's commercial seal hunt, and destroys one of the greatest myths constantly propagated by the Canadian government", said Ms Fink.

In its examination of Canada's commercial seal hunt, the EFSA scientists found that:

- there is strong evidence that, in practice, effective killing does not always occur;

- there is evidence that, during Canada's commercial seal hunt, animals suffer pain and distress (i.e., are inhumanely killed);

- sealers often do not comply with the Canadian regulations in relation to manually checking the skull or administering a blinking reflex test;

- in contrast to current practice, attempts to kill seals should not be made where the seal does not pose a stable target or the sealer may be unbalanced, such as on shifting ice floes;

- seal hunts should be opened up to independent inspections without undue interference.

The EFSA opinion concludes that seals should be recognized as sentient marine mammals that can experience pain, distress, fear, and other forms of suffering - not fish, as they are classified in Canada. It also recommends that seals should be protected from killing and skinning practices that cause them pain, distress, and avoidable suffering.

The report draws an important distinction between the prescribed methods for stunning and killing seals described in Canada's Marine Mammal Regulations and the methods that are actually employed during Canada's commercial seal hunt.

"IFAW has been documenting Canada's commercial seal hunt for decades and has witnessed unspeakable acts of cruelty on the ice," said Ms Fink.

IFAW submitted unedited footage to the EFSA Panel that clearly showed the hooking and dragging of live seals, wounded seals suffering for long periods of time, and few sealers administering basic tests to ensure seals are dead prior to skinning. Representative footage and photographs are available at

"The government of Canada must now admit what the EFSA report makes clear: Canada's commercial seal hunt is inhumane, the current regulations do not satisfy modern standards of animal welfare, and besides, they are unenforceable. Clearly, it is time for Canada to abandon this cruel and unnecessary hunt."

The EFSA report was compiled at the request of the European Commission. EFSA assessed from an animal welfare perspective the scientific evidence about the different methods of killing and skinning seals.


In response to recent public concerns relating to animal welfare aspects of the killing of seals, several EU Member States are considering, or in the process of introducing, national legislative measures banning the use and importation of seal skins and seal products.

In September 2006, the European Parliament adopted a written declaration requesting the Commission immediately draft a regulation to ban the import, export and sale of all harp and hooded seal products, while ensuring this measure would not have an impact on traditional Inuit seal hunting which only accounts for 3% of the current hunt.

In January 2007, recognising the significant level of public concern, and in line with its commitment to high animals welfare standards, the Commission undertook to make a full and objective assessment of the animal welfare aspects of the methods used for the killing and skinning of seals.

The Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to issue a scientific opinion on:

1. the animal welfare aspects of the methods currently being used, particularly non-traditional methods, for killing and skinning seals in respective range states; and

2. to assess, on the basis of current scientific knowledge including other available information on different killing and skinning practices, the most appropriate/suitable killing methods for seals which reduce as much as possible unnecessary pain, distress and suffering.

The Scientific Panel for Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) of the European Food Safety Authority adopted the current Scientific Opinion on 6 December 2007. The Members of the AHAW Scientific Panel were: Bo Algers, Harry J. Blokhuis, Donald M. Broom, Patrizia Costa, Mariano Domingo, Mathias Greiner, Daniel Guemene, Jorg Hartung, Frank Koenen, Christine Muller-Graf, David B. Morton, Albert Osterhaus, Dirk U. Pfeiffer, Ron Roberts, Moez Sanaa, Mo Salman, J. Michael Sharp, Philippe Vannier, Martin Wierup, Marion Wooldridge.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare works to improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats, and assisting animals in distress. IFAW seeks to motivate the public to prevent cruelty to animals and to promote animal welfare and conservation policies that advance the well-being of both animals and people. This transmission is intended only for use by the addressee(s) named herein and may contain information that is proprietary, confidential and/or legally privileged.

Contact Information

  • IFAW Canada
    Erica Martin
    613-241-3982 ext. 221
    Cell: 613-852-0589