Do Canadian sealers still harvest whitecoat pups?


No, not for decades. Harp seals at birth appear yellow because they are stained with amniotic fluid, but within a few days they turn white, hence the name “whitecoat”. They remain white while they are nursing, which lasts until they are about 12 days old and weigh 36 kg or more, and their mothers abandon them. At this point the white fur starts to shed and they transition into “greycoats”.

Whitecoats were once harvested by commercial sealers, but anti-sealing campaigns used images of them to great effect, looking cute and cuddly. In 1983, the European Economic Community banned imports of whitecoat products, and in 1987 Canada banned their harvesting.

Images of whitecoats have been of tremendous significance in the ongoing struggle between advocates of sustainable use and animal rights groups. In the 1970s and 1980s, when the campaign against Canadian sealing was at its height, these images appeared everywhere. They are less commonly seen today, but some animal rights groups still use them in fundraising materials, even though whitecoats have not been harvested in almost four decades.

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