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October 8, 2012

HSI Urges MEPs to Defend European Union Trade Ban on Commercial Seal Hunt Products

Humane Society International/Europe

  • Canada's commercial seal kill is the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world.

BRUSSELS, Belgium—The European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions debated a 20,000+ signature petition submitted by Humane Society International, urging MEPs to defend the EU’s trade ban on products from commercial seal hunts, in place since 2010. Canada, which has an annual commercial seal slaughter that has resulted in the deaths of more than two million seals in the past decade alone, is challenging the EU ban at the World Trade Organisation. HSI and its petitioners are extremely concerned that Canada’s challenge of the ban is moving forward even as Canada attempts to negotiate a lucrative free trade agreement with the European Union.

The Parliamentary debate on the agreement comes just two weeks after Canada announced that it would be moving forward with its WTO challenge. Animal suffering inherent in commercial sealing has led to worldwide condemnation and, in addition to the EU, Belarus, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, and the United States all maintain some form of trade restriction on seal products.

“Citizens from across the Union are deeply disappointed that Canada is continuing its baseless challenge against Europe’s historic and hard-fought animal protection legislation,” said Joanna Swabe, Ph.D., HSI’s EU director. “EU citizens and policy makers have the absolute right to reject the sale of unethical seal products. It is vital that the European Parliament thinks twice about ratifying a trade deal worth billions to Canada whilst the Canadian government fails to respect our moral values and democratic processes. The Parliament must hold firm and defend the will of Europeans on this matter and the legislation that resulted from it.”

Canada’s commercial seal kill is the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world. Most of the animals killed are less than 3 months old. Since the EU Regulation went into force, the number of harp seals slaughtered has dramatically declined. In 2011, fewer than 38,000 harp seals were killed in Canada compared with more than 350,000 five years previously.

"I am outraged by the Canadian government's continuing challenges to the EU import ban on cruel seal slaughter products at the WTO," said British Green MEP Keith Taylor. "The annual Canadian harp seal hunt is bloody and brutal and Europe's citizens have made it perfectly clear that we do not want commercial seal slaughter products sold in the EU market. I am proud to defend Europe's ban against this baseless challenge and I urge my fellow policy makers to stand firm with me."

As the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is currently under negotiation, HSI urges the European Parliament to make Canada’s withdrawal of its WTO challenge a condition of the ratification of the agreement.

The European Commission has consistently sought to separate these two issues; however, the Parliament has recognised in a Resolution that Canada’s WTO challenge runs counter to positive trade relations. Moreover, a 2008 public opinion poll showed that 86 percent of Canadians supported the right of the EU to prohibit seal product trade.


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

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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