Seal hunt confrontations lessen

Several thousand tough Canadians and Norwegians are gathering on the Labrador ice floes off eastern Canada this week for the annual six-week seal hunt. And adversaries elsewhere were sharpening their tongues for the passionate argument which accompanies the hunt each year. But there are signs that this year's hunt off Newfoundland might be quieter than those of previous years, with fewer on-the-spot protests.

Supporters of the seal hunt feel environmentalists have shot their bolt on the issue with dramatic demonstrations that have achieved nothing. Some leading Canadian conservationists appear to feel the same.

But the arguments remain bitter, and views irreconcilable.

To the fishermen involved and the Canadian government, the hunt is a traditional and vital source of income which earned more than $5 million last year for a poor region.

To environmentalists and many people outside Newfoundland, it boils down to burly men killing cuddly white baby seals with clubs, and it should be stopped.

this year's seal hunt started late last month in the St. Lawrence Gulf, off the Magdalen Islands, with no sign of any protesters, according to government officials.

But some protests were expected during the main hunt, which is due to start off the Labrador coast early this week, possibly Monday.

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