Canada and Norway Challenge the EU Seal Ban Dispute before the WTO
August 20, 2010 was a significant day in IFAW’s 44-year struggle to stop Canada’s cruel and inhumane slaughter of baby seals for their pelts and other body parts. That’s the day when the European Union’s ban on the trade of seal products went into effect.
Since the EU’s ban there has been a dramatic drop in the Canadian commercial hunt: About 40,400 seals were killed in 2011, well down from a high of about 354,000 seals in 2006. The end of the seal hunt may finally be here.
Canada and Norway, its ally in seal hunting, are not yet ready to give in to what seems inevitable, however. The two began their challenge of the EU ban on Feb. 18, 2012 before the World Trade Organization, an intergovernmental organisation based in Geneva that was established in 1994 and now comprises 154 member countries.
The WTO makes and enforces international trade regulations between members who agree to keep import tariffs low and to remove regulations that hinder the flow of goods, services and capital.
IFAW has been urging the EU to stand firm in defense of the seal ban while at the same time providing evidence gathered over decades of monitoring seal hunts that it was not possible to humanely kill seals.
The ban was triggered by the public’s concern about the suffering of seals during the hunt. Only a trade ban can ensure that this concern is addressed properly.
Were Canada and Norway to win their challenge, it wouldn’t change the fortunes of the sealing industry. In late 2011, the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation banned the import and export of harp seal skins. According to the Canadian government, in prior years, Russia bought 90 percent of Canada’s pelts.