Switzerland bans trade in commercial seal products

Exemption made for products of hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit or other indigenous communities that contribute to the community's subsistence

Humane Society International

  • Baby gray seal. Kathy Milani

Just a month ahead of the 2017 Canadian seal hunt, Switzerland has concluded a multi-year process of prohibiting its trade in products of commercial seal hunts with a decision adopted by the Swiss Federal Council on March 3, 2017. As of April 2017, trade in products of commercial, non-indigenous seal hunts (including seal skins, oil, meat and organs) will be prohibited in Switzerland. The decision aligns Switzerland with the European Union, which banned commercial trade in seal products in 2009.

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada, who has observed Canada’s commercial seal slaughter for 18 years, said: “In banning its trade in products of commercial seal slaughters, Switzerland is helping to spare countless defenseless seal pups from unimaginable cruelty. More than 35 nations have already adopted similar legislation, and it is clear that global markets for seal products are closing forever. It is time the Canadian government took steps to phase out the commercial seal hunt and invest in a fair transition program for sealers.”

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Joanna Swabe, executive director of HSI/Europe, said: “We are delighted that Switzerland has followed in the footsteps of the European Union by banning the cruel products of commercial seal slaughters. Our Swiss neighbours clearly concur that the brutal killing of defenceless young seals for fur – a luxury product – is an affront to public morality. The closure of yet another market should send a strong signal to the commercial sealing industry that its days are numbered.”

Vera Weber, president of the Swiss-based Franz Weber Foundation, who has observed Canada’s commercial seal hunt for four years, said: “By banning our trade in commercial seal products, Switzerland is refusing to participate in the cruelty of commercial sealing. I am so proud that Switzerland has ensured we will never become a replacement market for Canadian seal products in the wake of the EU ban on seal product trade.”


  • HSI 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.
  • With more than two million seals killed since 2002 alone, Canada’s commercial seal slaughter is the largest kill of marine mammals on earth.
  • Government landing reports confirm that more than 98 percent of seals killed in Canada’s annual slaughter are less than three months of age.
  • Veterinary reports consistently reveal high levels of animal suffering in commercial sealing, and leading veterinary experts now state that Canada’s commercial slaughter is inherently inhumane.
  • 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 EU 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).
  • Polling consistently shows most Canadians want the commercial seal slaughter to end, and oppose the Canadian government using tax dollars to promote the sealing industry.
  • Polling shows half of Newfoundland sealers, and the majority of Newfoundlanders holding an opinion on the topic, support a federal sealing industry buyout (Ipsos Reid 2010).

Media Contact: Christopher Paré, 514.395.2914, cpare@hsi.org

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