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Europe

EU ban on seal products goes ahead, but with exceptions

A European Union embargo on importing seal products went into effect on Friday as planned, though an exception was made for groups who have filed legal challenges to the ban.

Canadian seal hunters skin harp seals on their boat

Canadian seal hunters are allowed to kill 330,00 seals per season

A European Union ban on importing seal products went into effect on Friday, despite last minute confusion. The ban does not apply to organizations that have already filed court appeals, the European Commission said. The case has angered Canada, which defends the tradition of seal hunting.

The European Commission was forced to re-examine the issue after a court decided to freeze the ban on Thursday. Canadian sealers claimed they had won a reprieve after the European Court of Justice ordered a suspension of the ban for groups which had filed legal challenges.

The decision by the European General Court, the EU's second highest tribunal, was made public on Thursday by a Canadian native Inuit group, taking the European Commission by surprise.

Ban to go ahead

The EU said on Friday that the ban would begin as scheduled, but a Commission spokeswoman said that it would be suspended for any organization which has already lodged an appeal.

A seal pup lies dead after having been shot during the annual seal hunt in Canada

The seals are killed by the hunters for commercial use.

That applies to sixteen groups including Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), which represents Canada's 53,000 Inuit. Mary Simon, president of ITK, welcomed the delay, saying it would give the court more time to review the Inuit appeal.

The European Parliament announced the ban on importing seal products last year after a public outcry over Canadian commercial seal hunting. Animal rights activists denounce the practice as cruel.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper described the ban as "completely unfair" and "flagrant discrimination" against Canadian sealers. His government is currently defending the seal hunters at the World Trade Organization.

Author: Joanna Impey (AFP/AP)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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