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March 19, 2012

HSI/Europe Calls on MEPs to Block EU-Canada Trade Deal

HSI Defends EU Ban on Cruel Seal Products Trade

Humane Society International/Europe

  • Defend the EU ban on cruel seal product trade. HSI/Chad Sisneros

Brussels—Humane Society International/Europe submitted a 20,000-signature petition to the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee on 20 March, urging MEPs to defend the EU’s Regulation prohibiting seal products from being placed on the EU market [1].

The Regulation, adopted by the Parliament in May 2009, is being challenged at the World Trade Organisation by Canada, which brutally slaughters thousands of harp seals every year. The animal suffering involved in the annual slaughter has led to worldwide condemnation, and in addition to the EU, the United States, Mexico, Croatia, the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan all maintain some form of trade restriction on seal products.

HSI Europe and its 20,000 petitioners are extremely concerned that the European Commission is currently negotiating a Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement, a free trade deal worth billions of dollars, without making Canada’s withdrawal of its WTO challenge a condition of the negotiations. HSI Europe believes this is unacceptable and urges MEPs not to ratify the trade deal until Canada withdraws its challenge.

Dr. Jo Swabe, director of Humane Society International/Europe, said:

“Citizens and policy makers of the European Union have the absolute democratic and moral right to reject the sale of unethical seal products and the Canadian government should respect that rather than try to force the EU to buy products that nobody wants or needs. Every year, Humane Society International hunt observers bear witness to heart-breaking atrocities during Canada’s harp seal slaughter. We have filmed conscious pups impaled through the head and wounded seals left to drown in agony. Since the EU closed its market to this trade, the number of seals killed has fallen dramatically so it is vital that the EU Regulation remains in place. We urge the European Parliament to vigorously defend its own legislation and respect the wishes of the majority of its citizens, by withholding support for the Canada-EU Trade Agreement until Canada withdraws its groundless WTO challenge.”

Canada’s commercial seal kill is the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world, with more than two million seals killed in the past decade alone, the majority less than 3 months old. However, since the EU Regulation went into force, the number of harp seals slaughtered has dramatically reduced. In 2011, less than 38,000 harp seals were killed compared with more than 350,000 five years previously. Canadian legal experts estimate the cost of the WTO challenge to be about $10 million – more than 13 times the landed value of the 2011 seal slaughter [2].

Humane Society International is a leading force in the global campaign to end the harp seal slaughter once and for all, and is calling on the Canadian government to introduce a sealing industry buyout.


  • Opinion poll evidence in 2009 showed that 86 percent of Canadians supported the right of the EU to prohibit seal product trade [3].
  • The Canadian government challenged the EU ban at the WTO in November 2009, and requested a dispute panel in February 2011 after consultations failed to resolve the matter.
  • In June 2011, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution 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.
  • A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI almost two years after the EU Regulation entered into force shows that the majority of people surveyed (on average, nearly three in four adults) across 11 EU countries support the EU ban on seal products [4].


1. HSI Europe’s Dr Jo Swabe will present the petition to the Petitions Committee on Tuesday 20 March in Brussels.

2. Clark, C. (2009, July 28) "A $10-million fight to save $1-million hunt.". Globe and Mail.

3. Environics Research (2008) Canadian Public Opinion on a European Trade Ban on Seal Products and the Federal Government’s Support for Canada’s Commercial Seal Hunt.

4. View the Ipsos MORI poll.

Media Contact: Wendy Higgins, +44(0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

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Humane Society International/Europe and its partner organisations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organisations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands-on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at hsieurope.org.

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