Canada fights back against seal ban
Animal rights groups are thrilled that the EU has banned the sale of seal products. But Canada, the main exporter of seal fur and meat, won't take the ban lying down.
Animal rights groups have been lobbying for decades for a ban on commercial seal hunting. They are thrilled that the European Union has now officially banned the sale of seal products.
But the country that exports much of the world’s supply of seal fur and meat isn’t taking the ban lying down. Canada immediately reacted by saying it will make a formal protest to the World Trade Organisation.
The ban will be implemented in all 27 EU member nations within nine months, meaning it will take effect before the annual seal hunt off Canada's east coast next spring. Two countries, Romania and Denmark, abstained from voting. Austria likewise abstained but only because it wanted even stronger measures against seal products.
The ban applies to products and processed goods from seals. That includes skins, meat, blubber, organs and oil.
Victory for animal rights
Animal rights groups in Europe and North America are triumphant, describing the ban as a significant victory. Rebecca Aldworth of the Canadian branch of the International Humane Society describes it as the beginning of the end, although she stressed that her organisation will keep pressuring the Canadian government to legislate to end commercial seal hunting.
Canada's International Trade Minister Stockwell Day said Ottawa would lodge a formal protest before the World Trade Organisation. Canada’s seal hunt is “humanitarian, scientific and follows environmental rules of stability,” he said, thus it complies with guidelines set by the EU itself and the ban is inappropriate.
Day was backed up by Canada's Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, who said the EU caved in to pressure from special interest groups who “spread misinformation”.
Animal rights groups conducted a long-term campaign, using graphic images of seal pups being clubbed to death on ice floes, and stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Paul McCartney backed the campaign. In Canada itself, there is a smaller and less well-known movement in support of seal hunting.
“Irresponsible and counter-productive”
Last year Canada exported about CAD 3.5 million worth of seal products to the European Union. Communities on the north and east coast depend on the hunt for their livelihood and it's estimated that as many as 6000 seal hunters will now lose up to a third of their earnings.
Canada's fur industry says the ban is irresponsible and counter productive but, it adds, it should not affect the major markets for Canada's seal products, namely Russia and China.
Louise Dunne and Dan Karpenchuk