TORONTO — Canada's annual seal hunt started Monday, under pressure from a possible European Union ban on imported seal products.
The world's largest marine mammal hunt was called "inherently inhumane" this month by a European Parliament committee that endorsed the bill to ban the import of seal products to the 27-member union. Animal rights groups say the hunt is cruel and difficult to monitor and ravages the seal population.
But sealers and Canada's Fisheries Department counter that the hunt is humane and sustainable and brings money to isolated fishing communities.
Fishermen sell seal pelts mostly for the fashion industry in Norway, Russia and China, as well as blubber for oil. The hunt resulted in exports worth about $5.5 million in seal products such as pelts, meat and oils to the EU in 2006.