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February 18, 2013

HSI Condemns Canadian Government Misinformation at WTO Hearing on EU Seal Product Trade Ban

Humane Society International/Canada

  • The cost of Canada's WTO challenge surpasses many times the landed value of the seal slaughter in recent years. Rebecca Aldworth/HSI

GENEVA — Humane Society International is deeply disappointed by the biased and misleading information included in the Canadian government presentation at the first World Trade Organization hearing on the dispute regarding the European Union prohibition on products of commercial seal hunts.

"In direct opposition to the will of Canadians, my government is serving as an industry shill at this WTO hearing,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada. "From failing to disclose links between the fur trade and the veterinary expert it cites, to baseless attacks on the scientific studies cited by the EU in its defense, the Canadian delegation distorted facts consistently throughout its presentation."

Humane Society International has been at the forefront of the global campaign to end seal product trade, and achieved a major victory in 2009 when the 27-nation European Union banned its trade in products of commercial seal hunts. The Canadian government immediately threatened retaliation at the World Trade Organization.

Canadian legal experts have estimated the cost of this WTO challenge to be about CAD$10 million — many times the landed value of the seal slaughter in recent years. Moreover, the challenge occurs as Canada and the European Union attempt to negotiate a free-trade deal reportedly worth billions of dollars to the Canadian economy and tens of millions to Canada’s fishing industry annually.

Belarus, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Russia, Taiwan and the United States have all prohibited trade in products of commercial seal slaughters, yet the Canadian government has taken no action against these bans.

With the globally condemned Canadian sealing industry running out of places to sell its products, HSI/Canada calls on the Canadian government to implement a federal buyout of the commercial sealing industry. This plan would involve ending the seal hunt, providing immediate compensation for sealers, and investing in economic alternatives in the communities involved. Polling shows broad support for the idea amongst sealers and all Canadians.


  • The World Trade Organization oversees international trade and deals with regulation of trade between participating countries. It provides a framework for negotiating and formalizing trade agreements, and a dispute resolution process.
  • The EU prohibited trade in products of commercial seal hunts in July 2009, exempting products of Inuit traditional seal hunts. Canadian polling shows that 86 percent of Canadians supported the right of the EU to prohibit seal product trade (Environics Research, 2008).
  • Canada and Norway initiated a challenge of the EU ban at the WTO in November 2009. After consultations failed to resolve the matter, Canada and Norway requested a dispute panel in February 2011, but did not follow through to compose a panel until September 2012.
  •  In June 2011, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on EU-Canada Trade Relations threatening to block ratification of CETA if Canada fails to withdraw its WTO challenge. More than 100 MEPs have signed an open letter to the Canadian government saying the EU Parliament should not ratify CETA until Canada drops its challenge.
  • 2010 polling shows that half 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.
  • Veterinary experts have concluded Canada's commercial seal hunt is inherently inhumane given the extreme environmental conditions in which the sealers operate, the speed at which the killing must be conducted for economic and safety reasons, and the unique physical adaptations of seals which call into question conventional thinking on humane slaughter.


Media Contact: Dean Pogas, 514.395.2914, dpogas@humanesociety.org

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 eleven million members and constituents globally—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.

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