TORONTO — Pamela Anderson cuddled a seal mascot Friday and used her iconic Barbie-like assets to draw attention to what she called the "shameful practice" of seal hunting in her homeland.
Anderson told a gathering outside Ontario's legislature that she wanted to save Canada from further international embarrassment over a "barbaric massacre."
"When I travel all over the world, the Canadian seal hunt is a huge issue that people talk to me about," she said. "So I'm trying to save some embarrassment."
Anderson, 42, braved blustering winds and a bone-chilling damp while clad in a one shoulder sheath and strappy heels. Her handlers ensured not a drop of rain reached her primped hair and makeup.
After posing with the mascot and a picture of her air-brushed self wearing a "Save the Seals" T-shirt, the former "Baywatch" star took time to answer gossip questions.
"No," she replied when asked if she's selling her Malibu home.
"Don't believe any of that crap," she said, adding, "I have a home in Canada too.
"Being Canadian, I feel I am hopefully a good voice here," she said while shutters snapped around her.
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea called Anderson's remarks disappointing and suggested she spend time with East Coast sealers to understand the hunt's importance.
"Hollywood celebrities are not going to dictate policy in Canada because we make decisions that are based on science and consultation with Canadians," Shea said in a telephone interview.
Anderson, a B.C. native, was in Toronto to launch her new animal-friendly clothing line at Fashion Week.
The actress and activist is one of several celebrities, including Kelly Osborne and Perez Hilton, who are part of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign calling for an end to the annual seal hunt.
PETA says the ads will appear in entertainment magazines and on blogs and will be tweeted in many languages starting this fall. The aim is to keep pressure on the government year-round instead of just during the spring when protests are expected.
Anderson said baby seals are bludgeoned in front of their mothers before they have their first swim, but Shea said the killing of baby seals hasn't been practised in Canada since the early '80s. Activists focus on it because it tugs at the heart strings, Shea said.
"They still use the pictures of white seal pups, which are very cute, and of course they're bleeding red blood on white ice," she said.
"It's all very dramatic, but it doesn't happen."
The hunt is not just a tradition but a big part of the economy in coastal communities that do not have the same economic opportunities as other parts of the country, Shea added.
Prominent figures like U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Dalai Lama have spoken out against the hunt.
But many Canadian politicians support it, saying it gives remote regions an economic boost.
Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean made international headlines this summer when she helped carve a seal and ate part of its heart in support of the traditional aboriginal hunt.
PETA claims it is not targeting the aboriginal hunt but the East Coast commercial hunt.
Shea said there should be no distinction because seals are slaughtered in both hunts for economic reasons.
"It's every bit as important to the East Coast of Canada as it is to the Inuit."