MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia has said it had banned the hunting of baby seals, weeks after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called it a "bloody industry".
"The bloody sight of the hunting of seals, the slaughter of these defenseless animals, which you cannot even call a real hunt, is banned in our country, just as well as in most developed countries, and is a serious step to protect the biodiversity of the Russian Federation," the minister for natural resources, Yury Trutnev, said in a statement.
Seals inhabit Russia's White Sea region in the Arctic. As in Canada and Norway, hunters target the fluffy baby seals -- also known as "whitecoats" for their highly valued snow-white fur -- in early spring and club thousands to death.
Protests urging a halt to hunting of baby seals took place in 20 cities and towns across Russia this week. On February 27, state-owned "Rossiiskaya gazeta" quoted Putin as saying, "This is a bloody business and it's clear that it needs to be stopped." He said hunters should be compensated for lost earnings.