Canada protests Russian ban on harp seal trade

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Canada lashed out on Thursday against a ban by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on the trade in harp seal skins.

"Our government remains committed to defending Canada's sealing industry," Trade Minister Ed Fast said in a statement.

He said he had instructed Canadian diplomats to "convey Canada's concerns over these proposed restrictions and to examine options for ensuring continued market access for Canada's sealing industry."

French actress Brigitte Bardot and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) revealed the ban this week when they lavished praise on Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan for having imposed it.

Bardot went so far as to rank Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as "her favorite prime minister."

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which form a customs union, quietly adopted the ban last summer. It went into effect on August 20.

Ottawa maintains that the 350-year-old commercial seal hunt is humane and crucial for around 6,000 North Atlantic fishermen who rely on it for up to 35 percent of their annual income.

Animal rights groups, however, say it is a barbaric ritual and have waged an aggressive campaign in recent years to stop it, leading to a European ban which took effect in 2010.

Russia's ban was seen as a greater victory because it received up to 90 percent of Canadian seal exports, the IFAW said, citing Canadian government figures.

© 2011 AFP

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