There are many famous animal rights no-nos: testing lipstick on bunnies, consigning elephants to the circus, racing greyhounds…but none (and we mean none) is quite as infamous as seal-clubbing. 

But in Canada, where some sealers rely on the yearly hunt for much-needed income, some people are saying that seal hunters aren’t as dastardly as animal rights activists make them out to be, we learned from a Reuters article yesterday.

A summary of the debate:

Charge: Clubbing seals is cruel: The fact that seals spasm after being clubbed, say animal rights advocates, is evidence of their suffering.

Defense: From the Reuters piece: Sealers describe the movements as muscle spasms and insist that a well-aimed blow with the blunt end of a hackapick club causes instantaneous death.

A new Canadian documentary on the hunt — which takes the sealers' point of view — shows a wild boar being slaughtered and then making the same movements when its throat is cut.

Charge: The harp-seal hunt is unsustainable.

Defense: The harp seal population off the east coast of Canada has tripled since the 1970s, and Canada’s fisheries minister has said that seal hunting helps control the numbers and protects fish.

Charge: Seal hunters are getting rich from pelt sales.

Defense: In places like the Magdalen Islands (a remote archipelago north of Prince Edward Island), some hunters make less than $10,000 (Canadian) per year — and half of that comes from the seal hunt.

And where do we here at Plenty stand on the debate? Far be it for us to opine before we know the whole story (OK, OK, sometimes we opine, well, just because it’s fun.) But in this case, we’ll need a little more information. Luckily for us, there’s that new Canadian documentary (called Seals, the Movie, appropriately). A review copy sure would be nice, eh?

Story by Kiera Butler. This article originally appeared in Plenty in March 2007. This story was added to MNN.com in July 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2007.