Protect Seals: Europe

Humane Society International

  • Before the killing begins. HSI

  • The largest slaughter of marine mammals on Earth. HSI

  • Seal pups are clubbed or shot to death for their fur. HSI

  • Help us end the slaughter: Boycott Canadian seafood today. HSI

  • Veterinary experts have called the seal hunt “inherently inhumane.” Gray Mitchell

HSI/Europe is a leading force in the global campaign to end commercial seal slaughters.

EU seal trade product ban

After a long-running campaign by HSI and our supporters throughout Europe, the European Union introduced a Regulation prohibiting trade in products of commercial seal slaughters.

This historic piece of legislation, which entered into force in 2010, closed down one of Canada’s largest markets for seal products and contributed to a dramatic reduction in the number of harp seals slaughtered. In 2014 59,540 harp seals were killed compared with more than 350,000 in 2006; this is less than 15 percent of the 2014 quota of 400,000.

Legal challenges to the EU ban

The Canadian government—together with the Norwegian 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. Later that year, in November, HSI joined with Canadian and European Parliamentarians to call upon Canada to withdraw its challenge and instead implement a federal buyout of commercial sealing industry.

Following a series of hearings before a WTO panel and the WTO Appellate Body in 2013 and 2014, the WTO upheld the EU’s right to prohibit trade in commercial seal products for public morality reasons. However, it was determined that determined that two derogations in the legislation—the Marine Resources Management (MRM) exception and the Indigenous Communities (IC) exception—violated WTO principles.

The parties to the dispute have agreed that amendments to the ban will need to be adopted by the European Union no later than 18th October 2015. On 6th February 2015, the EU Commission published its proposal to amend the Basic Regulation. This legislative proposal is currently being considered by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. HSI Europe is working hard to ensure that this legislative proposal is not undermined in any shape or form.

In addition to this WTO challenge, the EU ban on trade in seal products has also survived various legal challenges from sealing industry and indigenous community interests in the European General Court. Thus far both the European General Court as well as the European Court of Justice, which has heard the appeals in these cases, have dismissed these cases as unfounded.

Closing markets

In addition to the European Union, the United States, Mexico, Croatia, the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan and Taiwan also have trade restrictions on seal products in place.

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