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July 27, 2009

Humane Society International Congratulates EU for Seal Product Trade Ban; Condemns Canadian Government Response

Humane Society International

Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States congratulated the Council of Ministers of the European Union for overwhelmingly endorsing a comprehensive prohibition on trade in products of commercial seal hunts. Twenty-four nations supported the ban, with only three abstaining. HSI and HSUS condemned the Canadian government for its ill-advised statements in response to the news, in which Canada threatened a World Trade Organization challenge should the ban proceed without an exemption for Canadian seal products.

"The European Union has ended its trade in seal products and its participation in one of the cruelest wildlife slaughters on Earth," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of HSI/Canada. "The overwhelming majority of Canadians supports this ban, and wants the slaughter to be ended for good."

In May 2009, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strong ban on seal product trade. Recent polling confirms most Canadians want the seal hunt to be ended (Environics Research 2008), wish the European Union to ban its trade in seal products (Pollara 2007) and oppose Canadian government retaliations against seal product trade bans through WTO (Environics Research 2008). Some analysts believe WTO threats related to the seal product trade ban could jeopardize an ongoing free trade negotiation between Canada and the EU.

"At a time when Canada and the EU are negotiating a free trade deal reportedly worth over $12 billion to Canadians, it is discouraging to see Canadian government officials make counterproductive threats of WTO challenge," stated Arlene McCarthy, former Chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee of the European Parliament. "The ban is WTO compliant, and for Canada to suggest otherwise is misleading. The EU will vigorously defend the values of EU citizens within the WTO and within the free trade negotiations should any challenge be made."

Canada's commercial seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet. Canadian veterinary authorities have concluded that the seal hunt is inherently inhumane because of the environment in which it operates and the speed at which it must be conducted. In 2009, prices for seal products plummeted from more than $100 in 2006 to $15 this year. Most sealers chose not to participate in the seal hunt as a result of the low prices, and more than 250,000 seals survived the slaughter.

Animal protection groups hope to achieve a prohibition on commercial seal hunting in Canada. In 2005, a boycott of Canadian seafood products was launched in the United States to compel Canada's fishing industry to end the commercial seal hunt. To date, the ProtectSeals seafood boycott has gained the support of more than 5,000 establishments and 650,000 people.

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Humane Society International and its affiliate organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. HSI is creating a better future for animals and people through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — On the web at hsi.org.

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