A campaign to stop the import of products made from Canadian seals killed in an annual hunt has won the support of more than half of all legislators, an animal protection group says.
Thirty-two legislators signed a petition calling for an end to the Canadian seal hunt, labelled as horrendous and cruel by the Hong Kong Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
The petition, which contains more than 10,000 signatures, will be presented to the acting Canadian Consul General Jean-Christian Brillant tomorrow by the SPCA and visiting members of Humane Society International (HSI), which has been leading a global campaign against the hunt.
SPCA executive director Sandy Macalister said they would show the consulate results of a survey that 80 per cent of Hongkongers opposed the hunt and 77 per cent supported a ban on the import of fur seal products.
'We would like the Canadian government to listen to the people of Hong Kong,' Macalister said. 'If the Hong Kong people say it is fine to import seal products then OK, but our indication is people aren't saying that, and neither are a majority of our lawmakers.'
The Canadian government-backed hunt, which takes place off the east coast of Canada, is reported to be the world's largest slaughter of marine mammals.
Canada's Department of Fisheries has set this year's quota for harp, grey and hooded seals at 468,200, an increase of 80,000 from 2010. The hunt runs from November to May. Supporters claim the killings are done in a humane manner and are necessary to control the population of seals, which has doubled in size in a decade. The hunt can account for more than a third of rural inhabitants' annual income.
Opponents say the hunt is cruel and has little economic value.
Macalister said the Hong Kong campaign, which began two years ago, had become more important since the European Union joined the United States and Mexico in banning in 2009 the import of seal products sourced from the hunt, effectively closing down a big market for pelts.
The HSI said that in response to the ban, the seal industry had turned its attention to markets in Asia, and specifically China. In January, the Canadian government signed an agreement with China to export seal meat for human consumption, although Beijing has since put implementation of the deal on hold.
Hong Kong itself is not a big market for seal products. Figures from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department shows the city imported 6,110 seal skin pieces and around 300kg of seal flesh and body parts in 2009.
But Macalister supports the HSI view that a ban here would send a clear message to Canada about the feelings concerning the hunt in Asia, and that it could have a knock-on effect on demand in mainland China.
Macalister said most people were unaware Hong Kong played a pivotal role in this trade and whether the Canadian fur seal hunt would continue. 'With the US and EU banning fur products, the trade is shifting to Hong Kong. It is our responsibility to inform Hong Kong people that we can put a stop to this cruelty,' Macalister said.
A spokesman for the Canadian consulate confirmed the meeting would be taking place between the SPCA and acting consul general.
'We are open to listening to everyone's viewpoint. Whatever those views are, we assure you they will be passed on to the relevant Canadian government department promptly,' a consulate spokesman said.
The SPCA questioned 958 people in a random survey between October 25 and last Monday. The results showed 2 per cent supported the seal hunt.
About 67 per cent were unaware the hunt took place, however 74 per cent said it was unlikely they would buy seal fur in the future.
The estimated size of the Northwest Atlantic harp seal population, more than four times what it was back in the 1970s