Scotland bans fish farmers from shooting seals; law inspired by U.S. reforms for marine mammals

Scotland bans fish farmers from shooting seals; law inspired by U.S. reforms for marine mammals

There is no justification for killing and hurting seals who are just trying to survive by eating fish in the oceans they inhabit. Photo by Ken Canning/


For years, Scotland has allowed fish farmers and other fisheries to shoot seals in order to keep them from eating their fish —a brutal practice that has resulted in so much unnecessary suffering and death among these charismatic marine mammals. Last week, in a long-awaited move that Humane Society International/United Kingdom fought hard for, Scotland finally changed its laws, banning this cruel cull. It also added tough penalties for anyone found in violation.

The ban is also a victory for animal lovers in the United States. It was introduced in the Scottish parliament after the U.S. government, pressed by the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, changed regulatory requirements under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to mandate all fish imports from Scotland stop after 2022 if that nation continues to allow fish farmers and fisheries to kill and harm seals.

With organizations like HSI working to raise awareness, there is also growing understanding within Scotland about the need to end such cruelty. Officials from Marine Scotland, the government agency that oversees Scotland’s coastal waters and seas, told members of the Scottish parliament that their goal, with the ban, is to enhance and improve the welfare of seals.

Under the new law, penalties for illegal seal shooting could include 12 months’ imprisonment and a fine of £40,000 (around $50,000). Upon indictment, this could increase to an unlimited fine and five years’ imprisonment.

There is no justification for killing and hurting seals who are just trying to survive by eating fish in the oceans they inhabit. HSI/U.K. has worked hard to illustrate the cruelty of culling, including the lack of any independent oversight, under-reporting of numbers of seals killed, the killing of pregnant females and mothers who may have dependent pups, and evidence that shooting does not always lead to instantaneous death.

The U.K. is home to two important seal species, the grey seal and the harbor seal, and both face recovery challenges in a warming ocean. Moreover, seal populations are still declining in some parts of the world.

We applaud Scotland for taking decisive steps to ban the unnecessary and unkind cull and we are now calling for the ban to be swiftly enforced and for careful and independent monitoring of the situation to ensure that there is no spike in seal killing before the law is fully implemented, or any illegal killing afterwards. Seals face a multitude of threats today, including entanglement in fishing gear and marine litter, pollution, and disturbance on their breeding and molting grounds, and it is imperative that all nations act to protect these marine mammals who play such an important role in keeping our oceans healthy.


Published at Mon, 22 Jun 2020 19:35:35 +0000

Legislation making it safer for wildlife to cross highways and mandating reforms for horse transport moves to full House for vote

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

There are only an estimated 120-230 mature-age Florida panthers left in the wild, with nearly 90% of deaths caused by collisions with vehicles. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


A key House committee has approved a package of investments in America’s infrastructure, including provisions to make U.S. roadways safer for both drivers and wildlife and to create more humane conditions for transporting horses within the country.

The INVEST in America Act package, H.R. 2, passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday by a 35 to 25 vote, and it now heads to the full House floor for consideration.

Provisions in the bill address the creation of safe passageways, including bridges and tunnels, for wildlife moving across landscapes to find food, water and shelter, adapt to changing environmental conditions, and migrate to reach breeding or wintering areas.

There is great need right now for such reform. Each year, there are an estimated 725,000 to 1.5 million wildlife-vehicle collisions in the United States. These result in more than 29,000 incidents of human injury, 200 human fatalities and over a billion dollars in property damage. Animals struck by vehicles almost always die.

Road mortality also poses a major threat to some species at risk of extinction. A Federal Highway Administration study identified 21 threatened and endangered species for whom road mortality is documented as a major survival threat, including bighorn sheep in California, red-bellied turtles in Alabama, and Key deer and panthers in Florida. There are only an estimated 120 to 230 mature-age Florida panthers left in the wild, with nearly 90% of deaths caused by collisions with vehicles.

When you count smaller vertebrate species killed in collisions, the toll for wildlife rises even more dramatically.

Creating wildlife crossings is a proven way to mitigate vehicle-wildlife collisions and habitat fragmentation, which is largely caused by human development. Such safe road crossings significantly reduce collisions and make it easier for wild animals to move between habitat areas by approximately 50% more than they can in areas not connected by such corridors. This, in turn, helps sustain biodiversity, ecosystem function and healthy wildlife populations.

The package that passed the committee will also address the safe transport of horses around the country. At present, horses may be transported in double decker trailers built for transporting smaller farm animals, such as hogs and cattle. Horses crammed in small trailers can be seriously injured because there is not enough space overhead for them to stand correctly, and transporting them this way can lead to major accidents. The package includes language from the Horse Transportation Safety Act, H.R.1400, introduced by Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. and Peter King, R-N.Y., which will make it unlawful to transport horses across state lines in motor vehicles with two or more levels stacked.

These are important reforms, and we applaud the leadership of Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in addressing ecological and animal welfare concerns in this package investing in America’s infrastructure and job creation. These reforms for wildlife and horses are long overdue, and it’s time to get them signed into law.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.


Published at Mon, 22 Jun 2020 13:05:02 +0000

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