While many U.S. hunters are thinking turkeys this time of year, our north-of-the-border neighbors have a very different sort of game on their minds — and it brings a lot of controversy with it.
Canada's annual seal hunt gets underway today, with an "allowable catch" set at 280,000, up from 275,000 last year. The controversial hunt is making world news, as evidenced by this [Sydney Morning Herald ](http://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/canada-braces-for-controversy-as-seal-hunt-begins-20090323-96qz.html/)story which says global criticism has only gotten louder. An international effort to ban imported seal products intensified three weeks ago when a European Parliament committee backed a bill that would ban the import of such goods throughout the 27-member union. (The bill granted an exemption to Inuit hunters.) For its part, Russia announced earlier this month that it would ban baby seal hunting (I read in another article that Russian Prime Minister Putin condemned the practice as too "bloody"). The article points out that the "products" mostly include seal pelts for the world fashion industry and blubber for oil. On the other side of the debate are the Canadian sealers and the Fisheries Department that regulates their actions, which says the annual seal hunt is, "sustainable, humane and well-managed," according to the story. It adds that the hunt, "provides supplemental income for isolated fishing communities that have been hurt by the decline in cod stocks." Foreign legislators and animal rights activists v.s. Canadian sealers. It's a tough debate to comment on considering that -- I assume -- few of us fit into either of those groups. But no harm in following hunting issues beyond our borders. -K.H.