Hundreds of seals are being killed to protect stocks of salmon and other fish off the coasts of Scotland and Northern England.
This cull even takes place during the seals’ breeding season which means that pups are being left motherless, having to fend for themselves. As Andy Ottaway, director of the Seal Protection Action Group, says ” if there’s a weaning pup and its mum has been killed, it won’t go back to feed it and it starves.”
Mr Ottoway also commented that “the licence in Scotland allows seals to be shot all year round,” which means there is no legislation protecting them during the breeding season.
Last year over 200 were shot around Scotland’s coasts, but animal rights campaigners fear the number might actually be higher as the number of kills isn’t independently verified.
A spokesman for Sea Shepherd UK said that they are “convinced the real number of seals shot greatly exceeds this official number and some conservation groups have previously claimed up to 2,000 grey and common seals are shot around Scotland’s coast.”
52 of the kills recorded were shot by farms certified under the RSPCA’s Freedom Food initiative, which is dedicated to improving conditions for farm animals.
Farmers insist the killing is necessary to stop the animals from destroying fish stocks, but campaigners say there is no need and that fish farms should invest in humane methods of protecting fish, such as anti-predator nets and acoustic deterrent devices.
A spokeswoman for animal rights group PETA, Mimi Bekhechi, commented that “there is no justification for shooting beautiful animals to protect the cruel and unnecessary fish-farming industry.”
But Scott Landsburgh, head of Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, replied: “We have championed deterrence techniques that are designed to keep seals away from our fish, and shooting is always last resort.
“When a determined seal attacks fish in our pens it can kill and damage large numbers and it is important that we do whatever we can to reduce the chances of this happening.”
Activists are encouraging consumers to investigate the origins of their Scottish salmon and check whether any seals were shot in the production of the fish.
Mr Ottoway of the Seal Protection Action Group added that “not every fish farmer is shooting seals, it’s perfectly possible to protect fish without shooting seals.”
Anna Henley /Barcroft USA
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