European Union stands strong in defending their seal trade ban

Sealers hunt for harp seals during the 2009 Canadian commercial seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. c. IFAWWe got great news today that the European Union’s General Court in Luxembourg upheld the EU seal trade ban.

There was honest, if disaffected, concern around the office the decision might go the other way – mainly because of this headline earlier in the week.

Thankfully the tone and language the court used today made it clear that we needn’t have been worried.

For a court decision, this one is remarkable in its clarity, spelled out with great efficiency in their press release:

The EU legislature took the view that, in the absence of action at EU level, obstacles to trade would arise. It therefore took action in order to harmonise the rules and thus prevent the disturbance of the internal market in seal products.

This wording is very important. It demonstrates the EU seal trade regulation was created to both meet the cruelty concerns of European citizens but more crucially to avoid disruption to trade by harmonizing rules.

The General Court confirms that the objective of the basic regulation, which is the improvement of the conditions of functioning of the internal market, taking into account the protection of animal welfare, cannot be satisfactorily achieved by action undertaken only in the Member States and requires action at EU level.

You can read the full judgment here.

The reason this particular decision is so important is the current case brought by Canada and Norway at World Trade Organization (WTO), where that body is currently also looking at the EU seal trade regulation.

Having the European General Court rule that the regulation is justified in trade terms increases the chances the WTO will also come to the same conclusion. That decision won’t be made until October, after the second hearing next week in Geneva.

So for now we’ll just be happy that one more hurdle in the fight to protect seals has been overcome today.

--Barbara Slee

Make sure to check back next week for an update from the WTO hearing in Geneva.

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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