WTO hearings day two: Canadian sealing comes under fire – but not from the EU

Canadian East Coast seal hunt - and now the Inuit seal hunt - are being depicted as the cruelest on the planet.I’m in Geneva for the first round of WTO hearings on Canada and Norway’s challenge of EU regulations on seal products. 

There was lively interaction during Day two. 

Instead of each delegation making their case, it was an opportunity for delegations to ask questions of each other and offer their replies and rebuttals.

Both Canada and Norway were critical of the EU trade regulation, saying that the exemption made for Inuit would allow for products from seals killed using some of the most cruel methods studied - such as netting - to be allowed on the European market. 

While this approach was expected, it was unusual to hear Canada talk about Inuit sealing in such negative and critical terms, particularly since Canadian sealing interests, politicians, and Inuit have long made the case that there can be no distinction made between Inuit and commercial east coast seal hunts.

Norway was scathing in its criticism of the Canadian hunt, saying that the instances observed in the video shown yesterday (the vast majority of it filmed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare ( IFAW) and HSI Canada since 2009) would NEVER happen in the Norwegian hunt and were prohibited by Norwegian law. 

In particular, they were critical of the use of the wooden club, the small unstable boats, the Canadian practice of allowing shooting at seals in open water, and the ‘unnecessary’ tests for irreversible unconsciousness. 

Although it is smaller in scale, and certainly looks somewhat better on paper than Canada’s hunt, it is difficult to know what exactly happens at the Norwegian hunt since independent observation by NGOs does not occur. 

At dinner, the comment was made that Norway must be putting at least ten times into their challenge than they will ever get out of the hunt – and the same could likely be said for Canada.  But regardless of whether the panel’s decision is favourable to Canada or not, Europeans will still not want to buy seal products, the Canadian sealing industry will still require government-funded life support to survive, and the only people getting rich out of all of this will be international trade lawyers. 

One thing is for sure -  the few remaining Canadian sealers will not see any benefit from this exercise, and more dirty laundry is being aired on the international scene as the both the Canadian East Coast seal hunt - and now the Inuit seal hunt - are being depicted as the cruelest on the planet.

Here is an opportunity for Canada to save face – and millions of taxpayers’ dollars – by dropping the WTO challenge against the EU seal regime. 

The money saved could be much better used to benefit sealers in the east and north.  

It is Canadian taxpayers who are footing the bill for this challenge. 

Why not use that money to benefit Canadians, instead of international lawyers?

--SF

Read Sheryl's post from yesterday's meeting here.

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Experts

Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Sheryl Fink, Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Sonja Van Tichelen, Regional Director, European Union
Regional Director, European Union