Europeans stand together to protect seals from the inhumanity of commercial hunting

The governments of Canada and Norway are challenging the European Union seal ban at the WTO.The campaign to end the Canadian commercial seal hunt  began in 1969 with the founding of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).  The images of seals being inhumanely killed and sometimes skinned alive mobilised significant support for banning seal hunt products from being imported into the EU.

It remains a fine example of EU citizens and EU decision-makers clearly speaking out for animal welfare.

The result was the 2009 seal regulation banning the import of products from inherently cruel commercial seal hunts.

Europeans are not alone in their opposition to cruel seal products as Russia, the US, Mexico and others all have similar legislation.

Defending the indefensible at WTO

Instead of helping those who work in an anachronistic industry to adapt to the 21st century, the government of Canada teamed up with Norway to attack this EU law at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the institution in charge of regulating international trade.

They claim that the EU was contravening trade rules by introducing the Regulation and that the seal hunt is humane.

But the WTO is not just about trade, it recognises that sometimes ethics, values, and protecting both animals and people are more important than money.

The WTO rules allow trade restrictions in protection of the “public morality”.

A panel of trade experts will be hearing Canada and Norway’s complaint and the European Commission defense from February 18th to 20th in Geneva, Switzerland.

The IFAW team will be watching closely to ensure that all our efforts and the protection of seals will not be sacrificed on the altar of free trade.


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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