Canada's Inuit sue EU in bid to kill seal ban

Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:29pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Inuit people have filed a lawsuit against the European Union in a bid to overturn an EU ban on imports of seal products, major Inuit organizations said on Wednesday.

The EU ban was imposed in July after decades of protests from animal activists, who said the annual seal hunt was cruel and inhumane. The ban will go into effect in time for the 2010 hunting season.

The Inuit, who call Canada's vast Arctic region home and whose economy relies in part on the seal hunt, say the hunt is humane and complain. They complain the impending EU ban has sharply cut the prices for seal pelts.

"It is bitterly ironic that the EU, which seems entirely at home with promoting massive levels of agribusiness and the raising and slaughtering of animals in highly industrialized conditions, seeks to preach some kind of selective elevated morality to Inuit," said senior Inuit official Mary Simon.

There was no immediate reaction from the Ottawa office of the European Union's executive commission.

While the Inuit hunt seals in the Far North, Canada's main seal hunt takes place in March and April on the ice floes off the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The seals 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 Atlantic seal herd is estimated to number more than 5 million. In 2009, the quota for harp seals -- the main species hunted -- was 280,000.

In November, Canada took action at the World Trade Organization to overturn the EU ban.

This week, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea was in China to promote seal products.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)