In midst of WTO challenge, new study says trade ban on seal products is justified

A new veterinary report supports the European Union's decision to ban the importation of seal products.A study recently published in the journal Marine Policy confirms what the International Fund for Animal Welfare and others have been saying for decades: that commercial sealing is inherently inhumane, and that humane killing procedures cannot be respected in the context of commercial seal hunts.

Veterinarians Andrew Butterworth and Mary Richardson analyzed video materials and studies conducted on Canada’s commercial seal hunt.

Their conclusions will come as no surprise to IFAW supporters, and will surely bolster the European Commission’s resolve to defend the EU ban on seal products as it faces a challenge by Canada and Norway at the World Trade Organization this year.

Key conclusions of the authors:

  • “the potential for suffering during the hunt continues, and may, in fact, be increasing”
  • “the review of available data indicates that generally accepted principles of humane slaughter cannot be carried out effectively or consistently in the commercial seal hunt”
  • “both shooting and clubbing of seals in the context of commercial sealing should be viewed as inherently inhumane, and that the current methods seen in the commercial hunt of very large numbers of animals compares extremely unfavorably with the societal and legal expectations for commercial slaughter conditions. “
  • “it is apparent that there is reliable data indicating that cruelty takes place on a large scale during the Canadian commercial seal hunt”
  • “Canada’s commercial seal hunt adopts procedures, and has measurable outcomes that do not meet internationally recognized standards of humane slaughter. There are unacceptable (and unlawful) things being done to animals for profit in this hunt. The evidence clearly shows that the actions of governments in prohibiting seal product trade are, and will continue to be, justified.”

IFAW has long known that commercial sealing is inherently inhumane. The European Commission and compassionate citizens of the world know it too.  This latest report simply adds to the growing body of evidence pointing to but one conclusion: Commercial sealing is inhumane, unnecessary, and has no place in the 21st century. 

It’s time to make the seal hunt history.


Butterworth A, Richardson M. A review of animal welfare implications of the Canadian commercial seal hunt. Mar. Policy (2012),

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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
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations