May 22, 2014
Historic WTO Ruling Upholds EU Ban on Seal Product Trade
Confirms rights of nations to prohibit trade in products of cruelty to animals
MONTREAL—The World Trade Organization has ruled in regards to the Canadian and Norwegian appeal of a 2013 WTO Panel decision in favour of the European Union ban on seal product trade. Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International Canada, had the following response:
“This landmark ruling upholds the right of the European Union to ban trade in products of commercial seal hunts. This is one of the most significant developments in the campaign to save the seals. The EU ban has already saved more than one million baby seals in Canada from a horrible fate. This decision confirms that global markets for products of commercial seal hunts are closed and commercial sealing has no future. Commercial sealing is on its way out and the only question is where we go from here. A responsible government would take action now to put a final end to the commercial seal slaughter and compensate sealers through a fair sealing industry buyout. Such a plan has broad support amongst sealers and would cost Canadians far less than continuing to prop up the commercial seal hunt with government subsidies. It is time the Canadian government stops wasting taxpayers dollars on a futile battle to preserve this cruel and outdated slaughter.”
- In 2009, the EU prohibited trade in the products of commercial seal slaughters, a move supported by 86 percent of Canadians (Environics Research, 2008).
- The EU ban contains a clear exemption for products of traditional Inuit seal hunts. HSI does not oppose Inuit subsistence sealing.
- More than seven in ten adults (72 percent) across 11 European Union Member States support the ban on the sale of seal products in the EU (Ipsos MORI, 2011). More than 6,000 people were surveyed for the poll.
- In 2010, Canada and Norway challenged the EU ban at the WTO. HSI played a central role in helping the EU to defend its ban: extensive HSI video evidence of commercial sealing was shown to the WTO Panel, HSI coauthored an amicus brief that was considered in the case and HSI representatives attended the Panel hearings.
- In 2013, the WTO ruled that the EU ban on trade in commercial seal products is justifiable on public morality grounds. The WTO Panel noted in the decision that commercial sealing poses inherent risks to animal welfare.
- In January 2014, Canada and Norway appealed the WTO Panel report. The EU subsequently also appealed. HSI coauthored another amicus brief that was submitted to the WTO Appellate Body, and HSI representatives again attended the Appellate Body hearing.
- The WTO appellate body ruled on May 22, 2014 and upheld the EU ban on trade in products of commercial seal hunts. It also found that the measure is not a technical regulation and therefore the TBT Agreement does not apply.
- With more than two million seals killed since 2002, Canada's commercial seal slaughter is the largest slaughters 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).
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