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Animal rights campaigners are calling for the annual grey seal cull in Nova Scotia to be stopped.

Each year hunters set out to kill thousands of grey seals on Hay Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Last year, hunters used rifles with small-calibre ammunition alongside traditional Norwegian hakapiks [clubs with an iron or steel hook on the end). They have been authorised to kill up to 1,900 seals.

Demand for seal meat and skin has drastically declined in recent years, with the Chinese market for meat becoming crucial for the practice to continue.

Members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) claim the cull should be stopped.

"The Hay Island slaughter is about as dead as the bludgeoned seal corpses that have bloodied its ice floes in years gone by," said Peta spokeswoman Elisa Allen.

"Last year, only 80 seals out of a quota of 1,900 were killed by sealers and before that, in 2010, the hunt was cancelled because of a lack of markets for seal products.

"The US and the European Union have both banned the import of seal products and, earlier this year, Russia, Canada's largest market for seal products, announced that it would no longer have anything to do with this cruel and bloody industry," she said.

"The court of public opinion around the world has spoken and the message is loud and clear: the seal slaughter is cruel and no market wants the pelts.

"Despite this the Canadian government is - for reasons that defy understanding - doing everything that it can think of to try to keep the commercial seal slaughter alive.

"This is a consumer issue and to most people eating the flesh or wearing the skin of a dead seal is about as appealing as a cold sore," she added.