February 11, 2011
HSI Canada Condemns Reckless Harper Government WTO Challenge against EU Seal Product Trade Ban
(Feb. 11, 2011)—Humane Society International/Canada condemns the Harper government's reported request for a dispute panel at the World Trade Organization in response to the European Union's ban on seal product trade, stating that the move flies in the face of Canadian values, crucial trade relationships and sound economics.
“In the lead-up to a federal election, the Harper government is acting in direct opposition to the views of Canadians, the overwhelming majority of whom supported the right of the EU to ban seal product trade," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International/Canada. "This ill-advised attack on European and Canadian values is doomed to failure and seriously threatens a free trade deal with the European Union that stands to benefit Canada’s economy by $12 billion annually.”
"The European Parliament legislated to prohibit the cruel commercial seal trade which leads to the industrial-scale slaughter of thousands of seals every year,” said Arlene McCartney, Member of the European Parliament and Vice Chair of the EU Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. “The European public called for this legislation and it is wrong of Canada to jeopardize its relations with the EU, including the negotiation of a free trade agreement worth billions to their economy, to fight for an indefensible and declining industry. The fact is that European citizens do not want the products of this cruel trade on European shop shelves. There simply is no market for these goods."
National polling consistently shows the overwhelming majority of Canadians want the commercial seal hunt to end, oppose the Canadian government using tax dollars to promote the sealing industry and support the rights of foreign nations to prohibit trade in seal products.
Canadian legal experts have estimated the cost of a WTO challenge to be about $10 million — more than seven times the landed value of the seal hunt last year. Moreover, Canada and the European Union are attempting to negotiate a free-trade deal estimated to be worth $12 billion to the Canadian economy annually. It is estimated that the deal would also provide $36 million in benefits to Canada’s fishing industry.
The United States — Canada's largest trading partner — has prohibited seal product trade since 1972. With the EU and Mexico recently following suit, the globally condemned Canadian sealing industry is running out of places to trade its products.
Canada's seal slaughter is conducted by commercial fishermen who earn, on average, less than 5 percent of their annual income from killing seals. 2010 Ipsos Reid polling shows that 50 percent of Newfoundland sealers holding an opinion support a federal sealing industry buyout – a plan in which sealers would be compensated for their licenses, and funds invested in economic alternatives in the communities involved.
- Canada's commercial seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on Earth, with more than 1 million seals killed in the past five years alone.
- 97 percent of the seals killed are defenseless pups less than 3 months old.
- The seals are killed primarily for their fur, which is exported for use in international fashion markets.
- Veterinary experts have concluded Canada's commercial seal hunt is inherently inhumane given the extreme environmental conditions in which the sealers operate and the speed at which the killing must be conducted.
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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than 11 million members and constituents globally—On the Web at hsicanada.ca.