European seal import ban a step closer after crucial EU vote

Monday, March 2, 2009
Brussels, Belgium
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – has welcomed a key European Parliament vote in favor of a ban on the import of seal products to the EU.

MEPs from the IMCO (Internal Market and Consumer Protection) Committee, today voted overwhelmingly in favor of a ban on the trade in seal products without any derogations, and with the only exemption for products from traditional Inuit seal hunts.

The 25:7 majority vote defeats plans for a proposed labeling system put forward by the IMCO rapporteur, UK Liberal MEP Diana Wallis.

IFAW opposes Canada’s commercial seal hunt because it is cruel and unnecessary, with more than a quarter of a million seals clubbed or shot each year primarily so their fur can be used by the fashion industry.

Along with other groups, IFAW has been campaigning for an outright ban on the import of seal products from commercial hunts to close vital markets and send an important message to the Canadian government that EU citizens want no part in this cruelty.

Lesley O’Donnell, Director of IFAW EU, said: “We welcome this vote as an important step on the path to achieving an outright ban on seal products from commercial hunts.”

“We were concerned that a labeling system was unworkable and feel that an outright ban is the only way forward. The majority of European citizens are against the cruelty of commercial seal hunting and an outright ban will reflect this.” 

Seal trade bans already exist in the EU in Belgium, the Netherlands and Slovenia with other Member States poised to bring in legislation, while Canada’s major trading partners in NAFTA – the US and Mexico – also ban seal imports.

In a few short weeks, Canada’s commercial seal hunt will begin off the east coast of Canada. Last year, more than 217,000 harp seals were killed, 99.8% of which were under 3 months of age.

The proposed EU ban is set to go before the whole European Parliament on April 2.

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