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Friday, 10 April 2015

The Secret Culling of Seals in the UK

The Tuesday April 7th edition of the Daily Mirror featured a shocking article about the secret culling of seals which goes on in the UK every year, yet has had hardly any media exposure. There has been much publicity over the years regarding the brutal seal culls which take place in Canada and a range of other countries however few people seem to know that it goes on here at home. Despite the fact that seals are supposedly 'protected' in the UK, hundreds are shot every year. In Scotland alone 205 were killed in 2014 and this year the government has authorised the deaths of up to 859-662 grey seals and 197 common seals.
The simple fact is that their so-called protected status is a joke. A loophole in the law allows seals to be killed if they 'threaten fisheries' which basically means the farmed salmon industry and other farmed fish such as trout. This does not mean that the seals are being culled in order to conserve wild fish. It means that they are being killed in order to defend artificial fish farms which are springing up all over the coast to meet consumer demand for, in particular, farmed salmon. This is not a conservation exercise it is a base profit driven one. Moreover in Scotland farmers and waterways managers need a licence to cull seals and they have to stick to quotas and record the numbers killed. But no such requirement exists for the rest of the UK. Therefore in England and Wales seals are a 'protected species' which have no protection. Nice.

The way in which the seals are culled in the UK can be particularly cruel as the licence in Scotland allows seals to be shot all year round, including during the breeding season. A request to ban culling during the breeding season was turned down by the SNP led Scottish government. In the rest of the UK they can also b e shot all year round. This means that when the mothers are shot the weaning pups slowly starve to death. A spokesman for the Sea Shepherd UK campaign group said:

"Typically every year over 300 seals are declared as having been shot. We are convinced that the real number of seals shot greatly exceeds this official number and some conservation groups have put the number at 2000 grey and common seals shot annually around Scotland's coast".

It is clear that Nicola Sturgeon's SNP has failed completely to protect seals in Scotland and that the situation in the rest of the UK is even worse. While I'd be reluctant to support an organised boycott of farmed salmon except as a last resort, this may well ultimately be something which we need to consider and which the Green Parties of England & Wales and Scotland can take the lead in.

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