Whether killing animals in an abattoir, on a farm or in the wild, humans must employ the quickest and least painful methods available, out of respect for the animals.
Professional sealers are required to be licensed, and to work rapidly and humanely in accordance with methods and regulations lain down by government authorities.
Two methods are generally used in killing seals: clubbing and shooting. Clubs are used to fracture the skull, and are well suited to the killing of young juveniles, which are more likely to stay still than adults. Clubbing also enables a seal to be killed without damaging the pelt.
A typical club is the hakapik, a multipurpose tool of Norwegian design. At one end it has a metal ferrule with a blunt projection on one side to strike the seal's skull, and a slightly bent spike on the other to secure the carcass and pull it, from the water if necessary.
Firearms, typically high-powered rifles in the hands of skilled marksmen, are generally used to kill adult seals, or in any situation where the hunt is conducted from boats.
Dr. H.C. Roswell, DVM, Dept. of Pathology, University of Ottawa and founder of the Canadian Council on Animal Care.
I have examined the craniums of thousands of seal pups and I have never observed one that did not have massive hemorrhage in the brain, which is an indication that the animal was rendered unconscious and therefore incapable of feeling any pain." And, "in each case the has been massive hemorrhage into the brain resulting in immediate unconsciousness. Death was rapid and humane. The choice of killing method must favour the seal and not the observer. This animal's death, any more than can the death of domestic animals in the slaughterhouse where the public is forbidden and where television cameras do not wish to visit.
Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada
clubbing of harp seals is as humane as, or more humane than, the methods used in slaughterhouse when both methods are carried out properly. The frequency of improper killing appears to be generally for harp seals than for the majority of animals in the slaughterhouses inspected