EU gives final OK to ban seal products

The EU's foreign ministers said the a ban was being put in place "in response to concerns about the animal-welfare aspects of seal-hunting practices."

seal sunglasses 88 248 (photo credit: )
seal sunglasses 88 248
(photo credit: )
European Union nations gave their final approval Monday to a ban on imports of seal products in an effort to force Canada to end its annual seal hunt. A majority of the EU's 27 member states see the way Canada conducts its hunt, the world's largest, as inhumane. The EU's foreign ministers said the a ban was being put in place "in response to concerns about the animal-welfare aspects of seal-hunting practices." The ministers said in a statement the ban would be implemented in all EU countries over the next nine months and will be in place before the annual seal hunt off Canada's eastern coast. The ban was approved without debate at a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers, although Denmark and Romania abstained from backing the measure, which Ottawa is protesting as an unfair trade restriction. Austria also abstained because it wanted the ban to be even stricter. The measure was already adopted by the European Parliament in May. The import ban will apply to all products and processed goods that come from seals, including their skins - which are used to make fur coats, bags and adorn clothing - as well as meat, oil blubber, organs and seal oil, which is used in some omega-3 pills. It will exempt products derived from traditional hunts carried out by Inuit in Canada's Arctic, as well as those from Greenland, Alaska and Russia. However, they can only export products to the EU "on a not-for-profit basis." Canada appealed Sunday to EU countries not to follow through with the ban. Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day and Fisheries Minister Gail Shea appealed to the EU "to reconsider" the trade ban, rejecting European claims that the way the Canadian hunt was conducted was inhumane. They said in a statement issued in Ottawa that the measure "will serve no purpose other than to damage the livelihood of coastal and northern Canadians and their families." It added that the EU was "misinformed" over Canada's indigenous Inuit community and its traditions. Canada is pursuing a trade case against the ban at the World Trade Organization in Geneva. Lesley O'Donnell of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said the ban would save the lives of thousands of seals. "We expect the commercial seal hunt to continue its inevitable decline until it is wiped out once and for all," she said. Canada's East Coast seal hunt is the largest in the world, killing an average of 300,000 harp seals annually. The EU bill was aimed at the Canadian hunt because of the size of the annual slaughter and the way seals are killed - either clubbed or shot with rifles. In the past, they also have been killed with spiked clubs, or hakapiks. One-third of the world's trade in seal products passes through EU countries. Last year, Canada exported seal products - pelts, meat and oils - worth about €3.5 million to the EU.