EU bans seal product trade, Canada will go to WTO

Mon Jul 27, 2009 4:58pm EDT
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The EU gave the final go-ahead on Monday for a ban on imports of seal products, prompting Canada to say it would launch a challenge at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The ban on sales on all products from seals, including fur, meat and oil, was approved by EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels without a debate.

The move follows many years of pressure from animal rights campaigners, who say Canada's annual seal hunt is inhumane.

The ban, which will affect the 2010 hunting season, will exempt products from traditional hunts carried out by the Inuit people in Canada and Greenland.

"The council (of ministers) adopted a regulation setting out harmonized conditions for the placing on the market of seal products," the ministers said in a statement.

Many Europeans back the ban, opinion polls show, with animal protection groups lobbying hard by showing brutality involved in seal hunts. Some of the animals are bludgeoned over the head with a spiked club known as a hakapik.

Canada, which insisted the EU should recognize that the hunt is conducted humanely, said it would launch a WTO challenge.

"Our government has consistently defended the rights of Canadian sealers to pursue a living and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to protect their livelihoods from this unjustified and indefensible ban," Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said in a statement.

A European Commission spokesman said the legislation was not protectionist or discriminatory as it applied to all seals, whether they were in the EU, Canada or Norway.   Continued...

<p>Animal rights activists protest against Canada's seal hunt, in front of the Canadian embassy in Madrid March 26, 2009. REUTERS/Andrea Comas</p>