Bloodlust of Britain's Seal Killers; Slaughtered for Fun as They Bask in the Sun

Article excerpt

AS his companion steadies their boat, a gunman stands and takes aim at a dark shape in the water.

Another seal is about to die in the name of conservation.

For this is one of the more drastic ways that fishermen protect their livelihood.

With 140,000 seals in British waters, each of them gulping down two tons of fish a year, they argue that the only way to maintain sufficient stocks for the industry's - and the public's needs is to eliminate the competition.

As the law stands, a seal can only be shot by a fisherman holding a valid firearms certificate if the animal is 'in the vicinity' of his nets.

But it is a law which it is being widely ignored.

Fishermen are becoming increasingly bloodthirsty in their determination to preserve what they regard as theirs by right.

Some are killing seals for fun, shooting them at point-blank range as they bask on rocks in the sun, according to Jim Cormack of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Last November a common seal pup was found bludgeoned to death, hang- ing from a sign outside a sea life centre on Orkney. Four years ago on the islands the remains of 25 grey seal pups were found - each shot at point blank range.

Recently a further series of illegal shootings of seals on coastal rocks has come to light, and animal welfare inspectors are hoping to charge those responsible soon.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation is demanding an organised, humane cull, stressing that the seals' combined fish intake is greater than the UK's total allowable catch under European law.

Spokesman Alexander Smith points out that deer are culled when their numbers grow too great and they damage trees. …