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IFAW: Images of doomed seal pups projected into Brussels night

Striking footage of newborn seal pups on Canadian ice floes was last night (Thur) projected on a building close to where European decision-makers are discussing a ban in the trade of seal products from commercial hunts.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) warned that the pups shown could be amongst those cruelly killed in the country's annual commercial seal hunt, expected to start later this month. IFAW campaigners urge the Parliament and Ministers to support a full and unconditional ban and to make sure no loopholes remain.

Lesley O'Donnell, IFAW's EU Director, said: "We are on the verge of an historic decision to end, once and for all, Europe's part in this bloody trade. But nothing short of a full ban will be enough to stop products from cruel, commercial seal hunts ending up in our markets and shops. European citizens have made it clear that they oppose this hunt, and it is now the responsibility of their elected representatives to deliver a total ban."

The proposed legislation was announced last July and the Parliament's plenary vote is due to take place in April. IFAW is pushing for the legislation to be amended to an outright ban on the trade in seal products from commercial hunts, as the current derogation for products from humane hunts is unrealistic and could provide a loophole for continued cruelty.

The giant 12m x 12m projection featured footage shot at the beginning of March which showed young whitecoat harp seal pups. The young pups are called "whitecoats" because of their white fur which begins to moult from approximately 12 days, after which they can be legally hunted. The caption read: "You are looking at seal pups born this month in Canada/In just a few weeks the ice will turn red.../A quarter of a million seal pups will be slaughtered/Help stop this cruelty - support a total EU ban on seal products!"

Robbie Marsland, Director of IFAW UK, said: "IFAW opposes the commercial seal hunt because, due to the typical conditions of the hunt, it is impossible to kill seals humanely. The skins of cruelly killed seals end up supplying a market in unnecessary luxury products, and thousands of carcasses are abandoned or thrown away. An unconditional EU ban would close a vital market for this hunt, greatly reducing its size, and send a clear message to the world that Europe does not accept trade in products coming from cruelly killed animals."

Last year, the Canadian government issued a quota for 275,000 seals to be killed. This year's hunt is expected to start in the last week of March with a quota similar to the 2008 figure.

Seals are clubbed or shot, primarily to provide fur for the fashion industry. Many suffer slow and painful deaths.

ENDS

Hi- res images and footage available. For further information contact:

Rosa Argent (UK) on mob +44 (0)7801 613 530, email rargent@ifaw.org
Adrian Hiel (Brussels) on +32 (0)2 230 97 17, email ahiel@ifaw.org

Notes to Editors:

Last July EU Environment Commissioner Mr. Stavros Dimas announced a proposed ban on the trade in seal products in the European Union, after growing political opposition and a huge public outcry in the European Union about the ongoing commercial hunts for young seals.
In January an overwhelming majority of Environment Committee members voted in favour of a full ban on the trade in seal products.
In March the Committee on Internal Markets and Consumer Protection (IMCO) voted against a labelling scheme and for a full trade ban.
The European Union introduced in 1983 a ban on seal products derived from whitecoats (newborn harp seals, less than 12 days old) and bluebacks (young hooded seals, less than one year old). Today, seals are hunted when they are just a few days older (98% are under three months of age) and their pelts can therefore be legally traded in the EU.
Four veterinary reports on Canada's commercial seal hunt have documented unacceptable levels of cruelty (Burdon et al. 2001, Daoust et al. 2002, Smith et al. 2005 and Butterworth et al. 2007).
Scientists predict that if Canada's commercial seal hunt continues at current high levels the harp seal population could be reduced by 70% over the next 15 years.

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