Chinese animal welfare groups call for end to imports of seal products

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 December, 2015, 1:07am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 December, 2015, 1:06am

Chinese consumers’ obsession with health products – in particular seal oil and seal penises that many believe improve vitality and men’s performance in bed – could intensify the controversial practice of seal hunting in Canada, animal rights activists say.

Local animal welfare groups have joined international campaigners to urge the government to ban the import of commercial seal products so as to end the “cruel slaughter” of the animals.

“China should not become a dumping ground for products of cruelty that the rest of the world is rejecting,” Zhang Dan, founder of the Chinese Journalist Animal Protection Salon, said yesterday.

Zhang described Canada’s attempt to sell commercial seal products as “a disgrace to China”, adding that the imports would only stimulate demand for such products on the mainland.

READ MORE: Hong Kong should take a stand against inhumane slaughter of seals in Canada

Canada allows the harvesting of seals, except for seal pups. But 95 per cent of those killed in commercial seal hunting are just three weeks to three months old. The official Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not punish those who hunt seal pups, according to Harpseals.org, a California-based animal protection group.

Ottawa signed a trade agreement with Beijing in 2011 to sell seal meat to China. But the deal was called off after the mainland government called for a review of the case, citing safety concerns. Canadian officials blame the animal rights movement for pressuring the Chinese government against the deal. In a further push to enter the Chinese market, Canadian industries have been promoting the sale of seal fur, penises and oils. In June, the Fur Institute of Canada called for the revival of the seal penis trade particularly to Asian buyers, Canadian media reported.

READ MORE: Watsons pulls seal oil after animal rights ‘cruelty’ campaign

“There’s no direct evidence to show these seal products improve health or enhance performance,” said Peter Li, China specialist with Humane Society International.

Data for the revenue of the seal-product export in Canada was not made public, but Li said it would not be more than US$1 million, so doing away with it would “hardly hamper trade ties between China and Canada”.

“Commercial seal slaughter is inherently inhumane and the best way to stop it is to remove the financial incentive to kill seals,” said Gabriel Wildgen, campaign manager for Humane Society International/Canada.

“By banning trade in products of commercial seal slaughters, China can establish itself as a world leader in animal protection and help bring a ... cruel practice to an end.”