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Bardot upset about seal quota increase

French actress Brigitte Bardot on Wednedsay condemned the federal government's recent decision to increase the number of seals that can be culled in this spring's seal hunt.

The federal Conservatives announced that the quota would be increased this year to 325,000 harp seals, up from 320,000 during last spring's hunt.

Ms. Bardot brought her anti-seal-hunt crusade to Ottawa on Wednesday, holding a press conference where she denounced the centuries-old tradition as barbaric.

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Ms. Bardot had requested a conference with Prime Minister Stephen Harper but he refused earlier this week, saying "I respect Ms. Bardot and all other famous people who have causes, but it's not in my nature to need to have my picture taken with celebrities."

When asked what she would have said, had she been able to meet with him, the French actress-turned animal rights activist said she would have tried to talk him out of raising the kill quota.

"Well, I would have asked him first, not to increase the quotas of this year to 5,000 more than last year.

"I think that's very regrettable."

She said she would like to see Canada reduce, rather than boost, the quotas every year.

Ms. Bardot also said she doesn't see the hunt as crucial to the survival of the Canadian economy.

"It's incredible to think that ... such dreadful things which are happening in a country like Canada, a country which could hardly be considered underdeveloped in the world. You don't need to do this."

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But last week, Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn said that the herd is healthy and thriving and is at its highest level in decades. He said the total population is a little less than six million - nearly triple what it was three decades ago.

He also said that the hunt is critical to those in the Atlantic Canada region who depend on it for their main source of income.

Earlier Wednesday, Liberal Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette said the 1960s film legend is being dishonest in her crusade to end the hunt. Although her website denounces the hunt, using the image of a baby seal with its blood spread all over the snow, Ms. Hervieux-Payette points out that since 1987, Canada has banned the hunting of seal pups. As well, that information was reiterated during a press conference last week with Mr. Hearn. Ms. Hervieux-Payette said Ms. Bardot's campaign uses misinformation to incite support for her cause.

The Humane Society of the United States, one of the main organizations opposing the seal hunt, has said it will observe and film the event even though protesters probably won't be able to land helicopters on the unstable and quickly disappearing ice.

With a report from Canadian Press

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