From a classroom to the European Commission
On July 1st, 2013
My story starts over 30 years ago, when a substitute teacher at my school in Berlin, Germany used his hour of teaching to show a Greenpeace video of the seal hunt. He appealed to us to do something about it and that captured my attention.
To this day, I am still involved in campaigning to end the commercial seal hunt. My demonstrating started in earnest in 1982, and the campaigning of AFC in 2004, when Animal Friends Croatia (AFC) started campaigning for this cause. As part of AFC, I was involved in protests in front of the Canadian embassy in Croatia. We mark March 15, the international day against the seal hunt, with well-publicized demonstrations on this day every year.
Since AFC began campaigning on this issue in 2004 we’ve used a powerful book on the seal hunt written 20 years ago by my colleague, a writer and good friend Bernard Jan called Look for me under the Rainbow. It became quiet popular in Croatia – especially after we promoted the book nationwide in 2004.
It is about the life of a young seal named Danny and his family in the circle of the Canadian seal hunt. The book unfortunately is no longer available in English, since we are actually looking for a publisher.
Our first success came when our protests and the public’s participation swayed Croatian lawmakers to impose an import ban on seal products – including both seal pups and adult seals – in 2006. As one of the first countries to impose such a ban – alongside Mexico, Belgium, the Netherlands and Slovenia – it was not only a great step for us, but it also demonstrated to other European countries that this was possible.
Next, it was time to take our campaigning international. Together with other organisations passionate about ending the cruelty of the seal hunt AFC launched an international drive for the ban on trade in seal products all over Europe.
It was a long but successful journey for us. In 2008, we started by contacting over 1,200 parliamentary figures in countries across the EU, asking them to enforce the ban on seal products. We then travelled to Brussels with around 50 other activists from Croatia to join citizens from all over Europe, as well as over 50 animal rights and welfare organizations, to urge the European Commission to impose a strict ban on seal products. Even if Croatia was not an EU member, we felt that it was important for us to be there.
To our elation, the demonstrations were successful and the EU agreed to a ban on the import of seal pelts, thus reducing demand for these products.
But for us at AFC, it didn’t end there. Over the recent months, we have continued to fight for many of our past achievements for animal protection to not be abandoned by the local law. We feel that this is something we must stand firmly on, particularly as our lawmakers try to adapt the Croatian national law to the EU directives and regulations as our country now is a member of the European Union.
As we try to keep all these in place, Canada and Norway have now challenged the EU seal trade ban at the World Trade organization (WTO). This came as no surprise to me or my colleagues. People have a desire to see old traditions live on. But I believe the seal hunt is outdated and cruel, and is not a pillar of the Canadian economy. As such, these traditions could and should be ruled out. In my opinion, there is no reasonable argument on the side of Canada or Norway to support an abandonment of the ban.
The day the European Union imposed the ban on the import of seal products went down in history and I hope that this decision will be upheld.
For more on IFAW's work on the campaign to end the commerical seal hunt, visit our Seals section.