IFAW condemns Canadian WTO Challenge on EU ban of seal products

Tuesday, 3 November, 2009
Brussels, Belgium
Canada has formally requested consultations on the EU trade ban of commercial seal products at the World Trade Organization. This attempt to overthrow the EU legislation was met with derision today by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org).

“The EU seal ban is the only way the European public can be assured they are not buying products of cruel commercial seal hunts. Canada is arrogantly trying to shove dead seals into markets where they are simply not wanted,” said Lesley O’Donnell, IFAW EU Director. “The current Canadian government would rather risk international condemnation than a few seats in their parliament. This isn’t about ‘standing up for sealers’, it’s about placating a small, vocal and extreme minority as a cynical ploy to remain in power through whatever means are necessary.”

The EU has previously made it clear that it will "vigorously defend" the values of EU citizens in the face of a WTO challenge. The seal trade ban was written in anticipation of a WTO challenge and is expected to comply fully with the EU’s international obligations.

“Despite every recent veterinary report on Canada’s commercial seal slaughter citing examples of ongoing, unacceptable cruelty; the fact that most of Canada’s major trading partners want no part in this bloody and unnecessary slaughter; and despite polls that show a majority of Canadians oppose the commercial seal hunt the Canadian government continues to pursue a political game,” continued O’Donnell. Statistics from a Department of Fisheries and Oceans report shows that the landed value of the 2009 seal hunt was the lowest in recent memory.

Canadian politicians seem to have no problem spending over €6 million in a desperate attempt to save a dying industry worth one tenth of that amount.

International condemnation isn’t the only thing the Canadian government is willing to risk to secure this WTO challenge. Shockingly, the Canadian government is refusing to ban the importation of cat and dog fur out of fear that such a move would jeopardise the politically motivated WTO challenge against the EU’s seal trade ban. There is already a full ban on the importation of dog and cat fur in the EU.

The ban on the trade in seal products will enter into force on 20 November 2009. This announcement follows the publication of the new legislation in the EU’s Official Journal last Saturday. The Regulation 1007/2009 is set to enter into force 20 days following publication. In practical terms full enforcement will only begin from 20 August 2010.

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Sheryl Fink, Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
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Vice President of International Operations