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Wildlife advocate encourages change after vulnerable seals found strangled by beach toy: 'A very long and painful death'

"It feels like a failure."

"It feels like a failure."

Photo Credit: iStock

A wildlife advocate wants the U.K. government to ban a certain plastic toy to keep seals safe.

What's happening?

Jenny Hobson of Friends of Horsey Seals drew up a petition to halt the sale of plastic flying rings, the BBC reported in mid-May. The hollow frisbee-like objects can get lodged around the mammals' necks, leading to devastating consequences, including death. Rehabilitation efforts can cost upward of £15,000 (more than $19,200).

The petition needed 10,000 signatures for a government response and 100,000 to be considered for debate in Parliament, but it was canceled with the dissolution of the body Thursday. A general election is set for July 4.

With or without the petition, conservationists are fighting for a solution to the problem.

In March, the BBC reported that the "naturally inquisitive animals … often interact with plastic in the sea." A seal had been found dead with a plastic ring around its neck. Thirty of the creatures were entangled by the rings in the past five years. 

Why is banning a plastic toy important?

The death of the seal led Matthew Capper of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust to say, "It feels like a failure."

The beings, which may put their heads through the openings of the flying rings as pups, grow into adulthood with what is essentially a strangling device stuck around their necks.

Capper told the BBC that beachgoers had been leaving behind more plastic trash than usual of late and urged people to "act responsibly and to think about plastic use." 

"I'm afraid they will die a very long and painful death through infection and starvation because it restricts their ability to hunt," said Hobson, who has worked on this issue for years.

"When people see the images of the seals they've been immediately shocked and sympathetic but we're just not getting through nationally and I'm afraid it is a national problem now."

What's being done to protect the seals?

Countless organizations are on the case in addition to the government, which long ago enacted protections for gray and harbor, or common, seals, among others.

Households in the United Kingdom bin 1.7 billion pieces of plastic each week, according to Greenpeace. Since there's no way to keep up with all that garbage, the organization suggested that the British government lead the way to a binding global pact to cut plastic production by 75% by 2040 and ban plastic waste exports by 2027.

Hobson asked companies that manufacture the flying rings to make them solid and from biodegradable materials rather than plastic but didn't get much response.

Individuals can change the way they consume plastic, opting to ditch certain items and support environmentally friendly brands.

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