European Union finalizes seal product ban – European markets to close in 2010

Monday, July 27, 2009
Guelph, Ontario
The Council of the European Union today adopted the regulation to ban the trade of all seal products within the EU. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) applauds the last step of approval before implementation of this momentous legislation. The ban is a significant victory in IFAW’s 40 year campaign to end Canada’s commercial seal hunt.

“There is a wonderful sense of accomplishment today after years of hard work,” said Lesley O’Donnell, Director of IFAW EU. “Already this year we’ve seen how the prospect of the ban has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of seals. We will be closely monitoring the implementation process until the ban comes into effect, which should be during the summer of 2010. We expect commercial sealing to continue its inevitable decline until it is wiped out once and for all.”

The ban on seal products comes at a time when the Canadian government is pursuing trade negotiations with the EU that are expected to boost Canada’s real income by $14 billion. Nonetheless, Canada has stated that it will challenge the EU ban at the World Trade Organization, a lengthy and costly undertaking that is opposed by the majority of Canadians and could jeopardize Canada’s trade relationship with the EU.

However, the end of Canada’s commercial seal hunt may already be secured. Only 21% of the Total Allowable Catch of 338,000 seals was taken this year, with a landed value of just over one million dollars.

The small economic value of the seal hunt is greatly outweighed by the government support required and the costs incurred by the hunt. According to an economic study by Dr. John Livernois of the University of Guelph, recently published in the journal Marine Policy, the benefits of ending Canada’s commercial seal hunt would exceed the costs.

“Considering the government’s insistence on supporting wasteful and economically unviable activities like the seal slaughter, it’s no wonder the federal deficit increases every time I open up a newspaper” said Sheryl Fink, a Senior Researcher with IFAW in Canada. “The closing of European markets should mark the beginning of the end for Canada’s commercial seal hunt, while at the same time protecting the rights of Inuit to harvest seals as they have always done. The decision by the EU to ban seal products has been thoroughly considered, and it is a decision based on science, facts, and veterinary studies. There’s no better time for Canada to bring and end to the abhorrent and unnecessary commercial seal slaughter.”

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Sheryl Fink (IFAW – Canada)
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