A Review of Seal Killing Practice in Europe: Implications for Animal Welfare

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Seals are killed in a number of European countries and regions for commercial, management and recreational reasons. This is the first review to make a comparison across different nations, and it reveals that a variety of methods are employed, including the use of firearms, clubs, netting and harpoons. There is disparity in terms of which firearms and ammunition may be used and what, if any, training is required in killing methods. Seal killing presents serious animal welfare challenges and this may be exacerbated in some cases by the absence of close seasons, the practice of shooting from moving platforms or when conditions are suboptimal, and the use of nets. The introduction of internationally agreed standards could help ensure that welfare is paramount in seal management, legislation and practice. If lethal control measures are to continue, then good practice should include the annual training and assessment of hunters, the implementation and enforcement of relevant legislation, increased effort to improve the efficiency of killing (including the assessment of this through the expert and independent examination of carcasses), and minimising conflict by locating fish farms away from core seal habitat.


This article has been made available by the publisher as an open access document until the end of November 2019. Please email the author to request a copy.