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March 18, 2014

Canadian Government Misinforms at WTO Seals Hearing

Humane Society International/Canada

  • HSI

The World Trade Organization heard testimony from the Canadian government at a hearing in Geneva on the Canadian/Norwegian appeal against the WTO ruling with regard to the European Union's ban on commercial trade in seal products. Canadian Environment Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, and other government representatives provided misinformation, claiming, among other things, that the seal hunt in Canada is “humane, sustainable and well-regulated,” in their statements in an attempt to sway the appellate body.

Humane Society International Canada Executive Director, Rebecca Aldworth, who has observed the commercial seal hunt firsthand for 15 years, issued the following statement in response:

"Yet again, the Canadian government is attempting to promote the indefensible seal slaughter through misinformation. In contrast to Canada’s statements, a half-century of veterinary evidence shows the commercial seal hunt results in considerable and unacceptable suffering. Not surprisingly, the WTO panel found that the EU ban on seal product trade was morally justified.

“Moreover, the EU ban allows products from Inuit seal hunts in both Canada and Greenland to be traded, and attempts to claim otherwise are dishonest at best. Contrary to Canadian government assertions, Canadian Inuit use separate processing and marketing streams than that of the commercial sealing industry and can continue to do so when the commercial seal slaughter ends for good. The only reason Canadian Inuit products are not on the EU market is because the Canadian government has, likely for political reasons, failed to take any steps to establish a recognized body to certify those products.

“Regardless of Canada’s actions at WTO, the EU will never again be a market for commercial seal products. These futile legal attacks are a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money and threaten our relationship with one of our most important trading partners.”


  • Humane Society International has campaigned to end Canada's commercial seal hunt for many years, documenting the commercial seal slaughter and working to remove the economic incentives for fishermen to slaughter seals.
  • In 2009, the European Union prohibited trade in the products of commercial seal slaughters, a move supported by 86 percent of Canadians (Environics Research, 2008).
  • In 2010, Canada and Norway challenged the EU ban at the WTO. HSI played a central role in helping the EU defend its ban: HSI coauthored an Amicus Brief that was considered in the case, showed extensive HSI video evidence of commercial sealing to the WTO panel and HSI representatives attended the panel hearings.
  • In 2013, the WTO ruled that the ban on commercial trade in seal products is justifiable on public morality grounds.
  • In January 2014, Canada and Norway appealed the WTO decision. The EU subsequently also appealed. The WTO Appellate Body will rule on the appeal in the coming months. HSI has coauthored another Amicus Brief that has been submitted to the Appellate Body.
  • With more than two million seals killed since 2002 alone, Canada's commercial seal slaughter is among the largest slaughter of marine mammals on earth. The seals are killed primarily for their fur and, because most Canadians oppose commercial sealing, the sealing industry relies almost exclusively on export markets to sell its products.
  • Global markets for seal products are closing fast. In 2009, the European Union joined the United States, Mexico and Croatia in prohibiting trade in products of commercial seal hunts. In 2011, the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus prohibited trade in harp seal fur, and in 2013, Taiwan ended its trade in all marine mammal products (including seal products).

Media Contact: Christopher Paré, 514.395.2914/438-402-0643, cpare@hsi.org

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