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December 12, 2011

Campaign Continues to Stop Canadian Seal Meat at China’s Doorstep

Humane Society International

  • A poster from the design contest.

  • Rebecca Aldworth speaks at the poster design contest awards ceremony.

  • A group photo from the awards ceremony.

  • HSI's Rebecca Aldworth and Peter Li met with officials in Taipei.

by Peter Li

The year 2011 has seen a series of anti-seal product trade activities take place in 15 Chinese provinces.

In January, activists staged a protest against the visit of Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea at Beijing’s Fur Trade Show. “The Chinese People Do Not Welcome Canadian Seal Products” was the message seen everywhere at the event.

In February, animal lovers across the country urged CCTV to drop the idea of using seal skin in the design of a TV host’s evening gown. The action not only convinced the designer not to use the seal skin donated by the Canadian embassy; it also helped publicize the cruelty of seal slaughter to tens of millions of Chinese television viewers.

In March, advocates converged on Beijing for the official launch of the nationwide anti-seal product trade campaign. That same month, CAWA co-sponsored a conference on seal trade and food safety with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), at which HSI representatives highlighted the animal welfare and food safety concerns of the seal trade. Meanwhile, Chinese activists and scholars urged China’s trade officials to deny the Canadian sealing industry access to China’s market on moral, public health, and fair trade grounds.

Following the conference, ICC submitted a policy recommendation to the Chinese authorities in charge of international trade, calling for caution against opening the Chinese market to seal meat. CAWA and other HSI partners pursued direct dialogue with Chinese officials responsible for food safety and food product imports. A meeting with high-ranking Chinese food quality officials confirmed that the Canadians had exaggerated the Chinese willingness to import seal meat, while another more recent meeting with a high-ranking trade official further indicated that the Chinese government does not take cruelty to animals lightly.

Recent activities

The Chinese campaign against Canadian seal trade is a force to be reckoned with. Its opposition to Canada’s seal meat trade proposal since November 2010 has been heard by Chinese leaders.

Last month, 42 Chinese NGOs wrote to Vice Premier Wang Qishan, China’s highest official in charge of foreign trade, asking to remove seal product trade from any high-level talks with Canada. In the past few months, several protest letters from groups in different parts of the country were sent to the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. HSI representatives met with officials and activists on the mainland, in Hong Kong and in Taiwan.

A compelling recent activity was the “Anti-Seal Trade Poster Design Contest.” Sponsored by Beijing’s Capital Animal Welfare Association (CAWA), Tsinghua University Arts College and other HSI partners, the contest attracted more than 240 contestants from across the country and overseas. In November, a grand award ceremony was held in Beijing to honor the winners of the contest. With the help of cutting-edge graphic design technology, the artists presented soul-stirring images of brutality to seals and powerful messages challenging human conscience.

The Chinese campaign has one objective: to stop Canadian seal meat and other seal products at the country’s doorstep. To this end, Chinese NGOS have been actively lobbying government officials, vowing to continue the fight until Canadian sealing industry drops the idea of marketing seal products to the Chinese market.

Strong partners who won’t give up

Humane Society International is proud to work with such resourceful Chinese partner groups as the Capital Animal Welfare Association, the Chinese Journalist Salon for Animal Protection, the Green Beagle, Pet 100, and the Yellow River Animal Protection Center in our campaign against seal product trade. The activities of the Chinese NGOs have increased Chinese awareness of the seal slaughter issue, alerted Chinese officials to the moral and food safety problems of the seal product trade, and prepared Chinese consumers to fight cruelty through their purchasing decisions.

China is a strategic battlefield for seal protection and we expect campaigns on this issue there to continue. We urge the Canadian government and sealing industry to face reality and listen to the voices of the Chinese people.

Dr. Peter Li is HSI's China Specialist.