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Anti-sealing video urges tourists to avoid Canada, Explore Elsewhere

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Explore Elsewhere: That's the message in an anti-sealing video urging international tourists to just skip Canada.

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Explore Elsewhere: That's the message in an anti-sealing video urging international tourists to just skip Canada.

It's the latest salvo against the yearly East Coast commercial seal hunt from the U.S.-based animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The one-minute video set to O Canada features increasingly gory images of seals being clubbed to death.

PETA hopes to post the video on tourism sites targeting northern U.S. states and Europe, where opposition to the seal hunt has led to a European Union ban on seal products that's to take full effect in August.

Canada is challenging the ban before the World Trade Organization.

The PETA video will also be available on YouTube.

Spokesman Dan Mathews says it's a retort to a 15-second Canadian Tourism Commission commercial. It shows a seal hopping on to a kayak in Vancouver as delighted paddlers squeal. It says: Canada. Keep Exploring.

The PETA video says: Canada. Explore Elsewhere.

"Of course they've got a cuddly seal flopping over a kayak with people laughing and we thought, 'Let's bring a dose of reality to this,' " Mathews said Wednesday from Norfolk, Va.

"Canada has a much more notorious relationship to its seals than that."

The PETA video is to be officially screened Thursday in Winnipeg as the city hosts Rendez-vous Canada, an event for travel trade media from around the world.

Mathews said the group will also try to take advantage of free public service broadcast time in several European countries. The video was made by a film crew that volunteered its services and will be translated in German and French, he said.

PETA's prime targets are wherever Canada most heavily markets itself as a tourist destination, he said. They include much of Europe along with U.S. cities such as Boston and Seattle.

No one from the Canadian Tourism Commission could be reached for comment.

Mathews lambasted the federal government for continuing its "ridiculous" support for the fading seal hunt. MPs have been photographed in recent months sampling gourmet seal meat creations on Parliament Hill.

And Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean made global headlines last May when she carved into a seal carcass during a trip to Nunavut and feasted with the locals.

Mathews says Ottawa is spending tax dollars "to prop up something that is only giving Canada a black eye and not really even something that is an economical boost to the people involved anymore, because the pelt prices have fallen so low."

Still, the seal hunt is passionately defended in Newfoundland and Labrador where several fishing communities rely on that cash to help fund the rest of their harvests. It's also revered as a centuries-old tradition.

But the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans says participation is down again this year.

Larry Yetman, a resource management officer, said just 65,275 harp seals have been harvested so far from a quota of 330,000.

The going price is about $24 a pelt, he said. That's up from $14 last year but far below the record $105 a pelt fetched in 2006.

About 98 sealing vessels have taken part so far this year, Yetman said.

Last May, the department reported that 306 sealing enterprises from Newfoundland and Labrador headed for the ice floes, compared to 977 the year before.

 
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