By LOUISE THOMASON
ANIMAL rights activists stepped up their campaign against the shooting of seals this week when they protested outside Holyrood.
In an attempt to alter legislation on the right of fishermen and fish farmers to shoot seals, the activists, headed by the Seal Protection Action Group (SPAG), were armed with a banner appealing for “Ceasefire for Seals”.
They also handed in a letter addressed to “Alex Salmon” which was signed by 27 conservation and animal welfare charities and supported by the Scottish Green Party.
The campaigners called for a total ban on seal shooting in Britain to prevent the decline of the seal population. They claim that every year between 3,000 and 5,000 seals are killed in Scottish waters, chiefly by fishermen and fish farmers protecting their stock, adding to the decline in seal populations which marine biologists have described as “frightening”.
The current legislation – The Conservation of Seals Act (1970) – allows fish farmers to shoot seals when necessary, expect during the breeding season.
Fish farmers have strongly refuted the allegations, however. Shetland Aquaculture general manager David Sandison said that the industry was unfairly targeted.
He said: “We have no basis whatsoever to believe that the 5,000 figure is in any way underpinned by reality. I don’t know where it is coming from and frankly is wrong. There is no way that that amount of shooting of seals goes on.
“Shooting of seals is legal and from to time it has to happen. It is a similar situation to when a fox gets into a henhouse or how the population of red deer is controlled to preserve parts of the natural countryside.”