China agrees to buy Canadian seal meat

Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:40pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's seal industry has found a new market in China for products that animal rights groups have succeeded in getting banned from much of Europe, officials said on Wednesday.

China has agreed to allow its consumers to buy seal meat and oil from Canada, and the deal could pave the way for future purchases of products such as seal pelts, Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said.

"The Chinese market holds great potential for the Canadian seal industry," Shea said in a statement from Beijing, where she was on a trade mission.

Although sales of seal meat and oil are less lucrative to hunters than pelt sales, the deal is expected to offset some of the financial impact of the European Union's ban on seal products.

Seal oil is used in a variety of products including Omega 3 supplements.

The EU has closed its borders to seal products at the request of animal rights groups, who argue the seal hunt off Canada's Atlantic Coast is unnecessarily cruel to the animals.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare dismissed the trade deal with China as "political," and said it doubted Chinese would actually buy seal products.

"IFAW believes that Chinese consumers, like those in the European Union, will not condone the horrific slaughter of seal pups and will reject meat and oil that is tainted by cruelty," the group said.   Continued...