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June 4, 2015

European Parliament Committee Votes to Strengthen EU Ban on Seal Product Trade

Humane Society International commends IMCO for crucial vote

Humane Society International/Canada, Humane Society International/Europe

  • Mark Glover/Humane Society International

Despite an intensive lobby effort by special interests, the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee has rejected amendments that would have reintroduced a controversial exemption for products of so-called Marine Resource Management hunts (seal culls).

Last year, the World Trade Organization ruled that an exception in any form in the EU ban would not be WTO compliant. Despite this clear finding, sealing advocates have campaigned to maintain this little-used exemption to be able to place products of culled seals on the EU market.

Humane Society International was instrumental in achieving the EU ban on commercial seal product trade in 2009. The decision was a key victory in the campaign against the Canadian commercial seal hunt – the world’s largest slaughter of marine mammals.

Dr Joanna Swabe, executive director of HSI/Europe, said from Brussels:

“The EU ban on trade in products of commercial seal hunts has already saved more than two million seals in Canada alone. It is reprehensible that special interest groups have sought to undermine this crucial animal protection regulation. Thankfully, IMCO has safeguarded the EU ban by rejecting the most problematic amendments, which sought to reintroduce the MRM exemption. We believe that all other issues can be resolved in the forthcoming ‘trilogue’ negotiations between the Parliament, Council and Commission.”

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada, said:

“Yet again this year, I witnessed horrific suffering at the commercial seal hunt, including wounded seals crawling through their own blood. The closure of global markets for seal products is the only reason that the kill level was 35,000 this year, instead of the 400,000 authorized by the Canadian government. It is appalling that special interest groups have cynically attempted to undermine this life saving legislation and put baby seals in harm’s way once again. Humane Society International is grateful to the IMCO members for voting to strengthen, rather than undermine the EU ban on commercial trade in seal products.”

Call for a federal buyout of Canada’s commercial sealing industry.


  • Landmark 2014 WTO ruling upheld the EU’s right to ban trade in commercial seal products on the grounds of public morality, but required that problems be addressed with two exceptions (derogations) to bring the ban into full WTO compliance: i.e. the MRM exception and the Indigenous Communities exception.
  • The European Commission has put forward a proposal that addresses both these points, but special interest groups attempted to use this opportunity to persuade MEPs to weaken the ban, or even lift it entirely.
  • Whilst the ban is vital in stopping trade within the EU in seal products from commercial seal hunts like that conducted annually in Canada, it does not stop any EU Member State from killing seals for marine resource management purposes, or hunters from consuming the products of those kills.
  • Only a few dozen seal products were traded under the original MRM exemption, so it is clear that this exception is needless.

Media contacts:

UK: Wendy Higgins, +44 (0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

Canada: Christopher Paré, 514 395-2914, cpare@hsi.org

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