EU, Canada clash over seal ban ahead of summit

Tue May 5, 2009 3:39pm EDT
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By Darren Ennis and David Ljunggren

BRUSSELS/OTTAWA (Reuters) - The European Union and Canada clashed on Tuesday after EU lawmakers voted to ban imports of seal products into the 27-nation bloc, prompting Ottawa to threaten action in the world's top trade court.

If the ban adopted by the European Parliament does not exempt humane and sustainable sealing, Canada pledged to launch a challenge at the World Trade Organization -- the global trade watchdog.

"If the EU imposes a trade ban on seal products it must contain an exemption for any country, like Canada, that has strict guidelines in place for humane and sustainable sealing practices," Canada's Trade Minister Stockwell Day said.

"If there is no such acceptable exemption, Canada will challenge the ban at the World Trade Organization."

Canada, Greenland and Namibia account for around 60 percent of the 900,000 seals killed each year. The rest are killed in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Britain and the United States.

The animals are usually shot or bludgeoned over the head with a spiked club called a hakapik. Seal products include fur used in clothing and oil used in vitamin supplements.

The European Commission -- which oversees EU trade policy -- said "it is up to Canada to decide whether to take action," but Brussels had worked hard to meet WTO trade rules.

"The EU institutions have looked at WTO issues and carefully listened to partners," EU trade spokesman Lutz Guellner told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>A harp seal lies next to the carcass of a seal that was skinned by sealers on an ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Iles-de-la-Madeleine, PQ, March 25, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Darrow</p>