The gruesome discovery of the bloodied heads of two young seals mounted on the entrance sign to a popular seal sanctuary is being investigated by gardaí.
The horrific sight greeted staff at the Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary in Co Kerry as they opened for business shortly before 9am on Thursday.
The freshly cut seal heads had been nailed to pieces of wood, which were fixed to the sanctuary’s sign under the cover of darkness.
Red paint was used to daub the words “RIP. Cull” and “RIP. I am hungry” on the sign.
Gardaí have removed the seal heads and signs from the scene as part of their investigation. Upset locals believe the sanctuary, which is a favourite destination for school tours, may have been targeted by individuals who say seals are destroying the local fishing industry and are demanding a cull.
Emily Butt, a volunteer at the centre, said the attack was revolting and well planned.
“This is revolting and very distressing for everyone here,” said Ms Butt.
Fishermen say that their livelihoods are threatened by a growing and hungry seal population which, they claim, is out of control and preying on scarce fish stocks.
Seals have been attacking nets on trawlers, with a monkfish catch on a Dingle trawler being destroyed 90km west of the Blaskets last week.
For the past two years, fishermen have been calling on the Government to undertake a cull to control the seal population.
Last year, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Marine Institute commissioned a seal survey to determine if a cull is necessary. The survey is ongoing.
Seals are a protected species under Irish and European law, but there have been several reported cases of secret culls over the past decade. Animal rights group Aran is offering a €5,000 reward in a bid to catch the perpetrators.