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McCartneys head to Canada to protest seal hunt

Paul McCartney and his wife will travel to the ice floes off the Canadian Maritimes this week to observe seal pups before the country's annual hunt opens, the Humane Society of the United States said.The former Beatle and his wife, Heather Mills McCartney, both longtime animal-rights activists, will head out to the frigid ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Thursday and Friday in their bid to
/ Source: The Associated Press

Paul McCartney and his wife will travel to the ice floes off the Canadian Maritimes this week to observe seal pups before the country's annual hunt opens, the Humane Society of the United States said.

The former Beatle and his wife, Heather Mills McCartney, both longtime animal-rights activists, will head out to the frigid ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Thursday and Friday in their bid to prompt Ottawa to end the annual hunt of seals.

"Heather and Paul's visit to the seal pups will shine a global media spotlight on this cruel and needless slaughter," Rebecca Aldworth, the society's director of Canadian wildlife issues, said Tuesday.

The timing of this year's hunt is uncertain. Generally the hunt runs from mid-March through mid-April, but the unseasonably mild winter has put the hunt date on hold.

Twenty years ago, the centuries-old industry appeared doomed. Celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot and Martin Sheen pushed to ban the hunt amid a worldwide campaign that featured graphic photos of doe-eyed whitecoats, or baby harp seals, being bludgeoned on the ice floes.

The protests worked. The United States moved to ban the import of seal products in 1972, and the European Union instituted a partial ban in 1983. Prices plummeted to as low as $5 per seal pelt, and in 1987 Canada banned the killing of whitecoats.

But by the mid-1990s, new markets opened up in China and Russia, the price for pelts started to rise, and the sealing industry's efforts to encourage humane harvesting practices limited the impact of renewed protests.

As a result, both the industry and the seal population bounced back.

The full 325,000 seals allowed under the country's quota were killed last year, giving some 15,000 fishermen and their families $16.5 million in revenue.