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August 30, 2010

EU Seal Product Trade Ban "Hold" Explained

Humane Society International/Canada

  • They don't deserve such cruelty. Mark Glover/HSI

  • Thanks to the EU ban, many seals will be spared a horrible fate. HSI

  • Still innocent. Mark Glover/HSI

by Rebecca Aldworth

The bullet slammed into the face of the three-week-old seal pup. Her blood poured across the ice and she thrashed and screamed in agony, her face hanging in pieces.

It was the opening day of the 2010 commercial seal hunt and we were documenting this horror from the air. I remember the paralyzing anguish I felt as this baby seal suffered, beyond our reach, beyond our help.  The only thing that pulled me through was the knowledge that in just a few months' time, the EU ban on seal product trade would take effect, sparing countless baby seals from a similar fate.

So, like millions of people all over the world, I stood poised to celebrate the ban's coming into force. And like so many people working to stop the slaughter, I was alarmed when, on August 19, Canadian media widely reported that the ban had been “suspended.”

But in their haste to publicize the story, many of the news outlets had gotten the story wrong.

The truth

In reality, a group of commercial and Inuit sealing interests had jointly filed a request to suspend the ban temporarily until a larger court case could be resolved. Because not all of the interveners in the case had submitted their arguments, the court was unable to rule on the injunction request. Thus, it afforded temporary relief of the ban to the litigants in the case, for the few weeks until the injunction hearing could occur.

Keep fighting

On August 20, the EU ban on seal product trade came into effect, and it stands today.

The coming weeks will hold many challenges. We must work to ensure that commercial sealing interests are unable to profit from any considerations afforded to Inuit groups, and that all the incorrect arguments made in the court case are refuted.

While it would have been wonderful to see the ban come into force without any hitches, we expected this kind of push back from the commercial sealing industry. We must take comfort in the strength of will that made this ban a reality – the millions of people in Europe who want their trade in seal products to end, the 550 elected Members of the European Parliament who voted in favour of the ban, and the 24 European countries who did the same.

We have tremendous allies on our side, and strong legal arguments. We are poised to win this fight forever, and we will not stop, not for a second, until we have achieved that.

Rebecca Aldworth is executive director of Humane Society International/Canada