Paul McCartney and his wife, Heather Mills, want Canadian seal hunters to get back.
The couple, longtime animal-rights activists, are heading to the icy Canadian Maritimes to spend time watching harp seals frolic in their natural habitat. They're hoping this magical mystery tour draws enough attention to the furry mammals' plight to end the centuries-old annual seal hunt in the region.
Rebecca Aldworth, director of Canadian wildlife issues for the Humane Society of the United States, told the Toronto Star that McCartney and his missus will be in touch with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the issue.
"They are taking a very strong stand against the commercial sea hunt and are going to be devoting their energies to making this a global issue," Aldworth said.
The McCartneys will travel by helicopter Thursday and Friday to the ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to reach the seals. The hunt usually runs from mid-March to mid-April, but unseasonably warm temperatures may delay it this year, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada.
A lack of ice might make the seal-spotting more difficult for Mills and McCartney, as well, since the harp seals use the bergs to give birth to their pups.
Whatever they do see will no doubt be adorable. However, the pups' fluffy white coats are what make them so attractive to hunters, who find use for the fur, skin and meat--and have been doing so for years. Ending the clubbing of baby seals was a hot celebrity cause in the 1970s and '80s, when stars like Martin Sheen and Brigitte Bardot appeared in ad campaigns featuring baby seals being bludgeoned in the ocean.
In the mid-80s Europe limited seal product imports, and Canada banned the killing of whitecoats (newborn seals) in 1987. But new markets opened in China and Russia in the '90s and the price of pelts started inching back upward.
Canada allows 325,000 seals to be killed per year and that quota was promptly filled in 2005, earning fishermen about $16.5 million in revenue. Those who support the tradition think the McCartneys should stick to rock concerts.
"He'll go out there and cuddle up to a whitecoat and they look beautiful, you can't get away from that, and it is cruel, you can't get away from that either, but it's something we've done for 500 years," sealer Jack Troake told the Toronto Star. "It's part of our culture, our history."
But maybe all you need is protest. In 2004, the Canadian government counted 5.9 million harp seals on the country's east coast, up from 2 million in the '70s. The British government is considering a ban on seal goods. And the European group Respect for Animals, which helped coordinate McCartney's trip, is discouraging taking trips to Canada as a sign of solidarity for the cause.
McCartney and Mills have had a standing reputation as friends of animals big and small. In November the rocker vowed he would never perform in China after seeing a BBC report on dogs and cats being killed there for their fur.
Mills, a former model, is an avid PETA supporter who launched a boycott of J. Crew last year, calling for the retailer to end sales of fur products--which it did, 11 weeks later.