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Column: The atrocities of the Canadian seal hunt

I love spring. The weather is beautiful and the crocuses are poking up in my garden. But every year at this time I become very unhappy because spring means the start of the Canadian seal slaughter.

This year, the Canadian government will not only subsidize this largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world with taxpayer dollars, but it has also set the total allowable catch at a mind-boggling 400,000 seals. The young seals are smashed over the head by the fishermen and often skinned alive. Even though the market for seal pelts is closed in the United States, in most of Europe, Russia and Taiwan, the pelts are stacked up in warehouses hoping for buyers. It is a dying industry.

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have fought tirelessly to end the hunt. And they have been successful. The Canadian government is fighting a World Trade Organization decision to uphold a European Union ban on the sale of seal products. The Canadian Seafood Boycott has attracted the support of world famous chefs like Mario Batali and Cat Cora as well as chains such as Legal Sea Foods, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

There is a simple answer to these atrocities -- a buyback of the sealers' licenses by the Canadian government. Fishermen participating in the seal hunt face dangerous conditions as ice floes melt rapidly due to climate change. They also are not earning any money as the price of pelts plummets. I believe that they would welcome an opportunity to say goodbye to an archaic industry that the majority of Canadians oppose.

The horrific videos and photos of the seal hunt coming out of Canada once again tarnish the reputation of the country. More than 8,000 seals have been killed so far in vain because there is no longer a market for seal products.

Five years ago, I offered the Canadian government $16 million to shut down the hunt. While my offer received international media coverage, I couldn't get a meeting with anyone in the government. I have tried again to no avail.

Canadians deserve better from their government. Think twice about spending your tourism dollars in a nation that sanctions such blatant cruelty of defenseless creatures.

Cathy Kangas is a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States. She can be reached at cathy@praibeauty.com.

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