I don't need to tell you what the Canadian seal cull looks like - the pictures of dead and dying white seal pups in the bloody snow, white on red on white, have been infamous for decades. But I may need to remind you what the Scottish seal cull looks like:the cull with no name; the one the Scottish Government doesn't want to talk about.

It usually involves one man, maybe two, sitting on a rock by the sea, taking out the seals from a distance with a gun. The seal population in Scotland has been declining for years but here we have it: the extraordinary sight of a man with a gun making the problem worse with one nasty little act of violence.

When the gunman finds his target, sometimes the sea will turn red and the animal's body is never seen again. Sometimes, the seals wash up on the beach and you can spot the bullet hole (it's neater than the metal clubs the Canadian slaughterman use, but the result is the same). And sometimes, if it's a female seal they kill, the pup is left to starve to death: two for the price of one.

The justification for the killing is the old, familiar one: money. Sealnumbers have declined in Scotland but salmon farms have done precisely the opposite and the companies that run them want to protect their economic interests (even though they could do so with modern nets or devices designed to scare the seals). For many years, they had a free rein; then a licensing system was introduced in 2010. But, because of a lack of good monitoring, we still don't really know how many seals are being killed every year, and we don't know who's doing it.

For years, the organisations that work to protect the seals have been trying to obtain the details of the killings but for years the Scottish Government has resisted. The identities of the killers, they insist, should be kept from us. We have no right to know, and how dare we ask?

In insisting on this secrecy, the Scottish Government appears to believe the argument of the salmon companies that, if the truth were known, their staff would be at risk of attack. But the Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew is having none of it. In a rulingthis week, she said ministers had to identify the individual farms responsible for killing seals in the last two years.

There are several reasons why Ms Agnew's decision is right. First, as a matter of principle, any licensing system, particularly one involving weapons, should be open and transparent - if there is a man standing on the Scottish coastline shooting at animals, or at anything else, we should know who he is.

Secondly, any government resistance to freedom of information should stand up to scrutiny - and in this case, it doesn't. Time and again, Ms Agnew rejected the argument that naming the fish farms would put its staff in danger for the simple reason there's no evidence for it. Admittedly, there have been some confrontations between seal supporters and seal killers, but the Government's argument seems to rely on the old idea that those who care about animals will pull on a balaclava at a moment's notice. In fact, the animal terrorist is a rare, almost non-existent, species; much rarer than the endangered Scottish seal.

But there are other, more profound reasons for supporting the Information Commissioner's decision. A few days ago, I spent time talking to a number of the people and organisations dealing with the licensed, and criminal, killing of animals in Scotland, including the policeman in charge of the matter (Sean Scott), lawyers, activists and gamekeepers and it was clear the motivation for killing animals is almost always money.

We kill badgers to protect the economic interests of farmers; we kill hen harriers and hares to protect the economic interests of grouse shooters; we kill rats and cats to protect the economic interest of pharmaceutical companies; and now here we are killing seals to protect the economic interests of salmon farmers.

How did our approach to the natural world become so imbalanced? The fish farmers in Scotland have the right to pursue a living and protect their interests, and so do farmers and drug companies, and perhaps even those who like to shoot birds in their spare time.

But when you stand on a rock looking out to sea and spot a seal, what should you use as your guide, your compass: morality or economics? Fish farming is a growing business but there is a convincing moral case that, in trying to balance the interests of intelligent, beautiful animals such as seals and the uglier economic motives of human beings, the seals should win. And even if they don't, and they're shot through the head by marksmen, we have the right to know who those marksmen are, and whom they are working for.