FISHERMEN last night condemned the illegal killing of two seals whose heads were nailed to the signs of a seal sanctuary.
The campaign for a seal cull off the southwest coast took a sinister twist after the grim discovery yesterday outside the Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary in Lispole, Co Kerry.
Gardai are investigating the bloody act, which was discovered by staff early in the morning after the alert was raised by a local.
It is thought that the seals, one a common seal and the other a grey seal, were both about six months old and had been killed some time on Wednesday, possibly after being shot.
The heads were severed from their bodies and nailed to plywood, which was then drilled to the two front signs of the sanctuary overnight. The boards and the heads of the seals were daubed with red paint that read 'RIP Cull' and 'I'm hungry'.
First on the scene was sanctuary owner Ciaran O'Sullivan, who said he was "sickened" by the find. "It's unbelievable that someone would actually go this far," he told the Irish Independent.
CCTV coverage of the outside of the sanctuary is being examined as part of the investigation.
The Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary is currently home to two grey seals pups who were due to be released back into the sea in the next three weeks.
This date may now be brought forward due to fears for their security at the sanctuary.
The savage act was condemned by fishermen, who have long called for a legal culling of seals they claim are threatening their livelihood by destroying their catch.
However, skipper of Realt na Mara Michael Hennessy said: "This kind of thing is not going to do any good for any campaign, and fishermen would not lower themselves to do something like that."
The Irish Fish Producers' Organisation (IFPO) also condemned the killing. "Fishermen are calling for a seal cull but we want this carried out in an organised, approved and humane way," said Michael Flannery, of the IFPO.
The Dingle sanctuary, the only one in the country, rescues about 50 seal pups each year. Under EU law, seals are a protected species and the Blasket Islands are a designated seal colony.