Slaughter of five seals sparks demands for tougher laws

WELFARE groups have called for tougher laws to protect seals after five were found shot dead on a beach in Orkney.

The slaughter included one juvenile and four pregnant females looking for a safe place to have their pups.

Ross Flett, of Orkney Seal Rescue, described the discovery, at the Point of Vastray, as "sickening". His group has joined forces with 12 other animal organisations to demand better legal protection for seals.

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He said: "Once again, seals have been slaughtered indiscriminately. I have seen many incidents similar to this and, sadly, they are on the increase.

"There were four pregnant females - so that's four more grey seals that were killed because the pups didn't even get the chance to be born. In the pupping season, they come into the shallow waters and it just makes them easy targets. It's horrible."

Mr Flett said each of the seals had obvious gunshot wounds to the head.

The Conservation of Seals Act came into force in 1970, but it has led to only one successful prosecution. Under the act, seals can be shot under licence or if they are seen in the vicinity of fishing gear, although there are restrictions during their moulting or breeding periods.

The islands and skerries around Orkney are among Britain's main breeding grounds, and in the winter thousands of grey seals haul themselves ashore to give birth.

Mr Flett said the females which had been shot would have been preparing to give birth from October onwards and were particularly vulnerable at this time of the year.

Tony Woodley, a director of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: "The law is being abused and desperately needs to be tightened up."