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Seal Ban

DW staff (nda)April 27, 2008

Animal rights groups fear the move by the European Commission to seek a ban on the import of "inhumane" seal products may not prevent the annual cull in Canada.

A harp seal
Animal activists want the EU to implement a complete ban on seal huntingImage: AP

Environment Commissioner Dimas "intends to come forward with legislation which bans the importation and sale of products derived from seals that had been... inhumanely killed," his spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich told reporters in Brussels.

She did not say when such legislation might be presented to the European Parliament and the 27 EU member states.

Experts suggest an EU ban would be very important as Europe is a major importer of seal products. Some EU nations, including Belgium and the Netherlands, have already introduced their own bans, she said. Even the threat of an EU-wide ban has already brought down prices, and this is making the seal hunt less economically attractive.


Seal carcasses on an ice flow in Canada
The EU is focusing on products from inhumane killingImage: AP

Activists fear that any ban will come with a proviso which will make it practically unworkable and ineffective, British Green MEP Caroline Lucas said.

"What we are hearing is that [EU Environment Commissioner Stavros] Dimas plans to include the proviso that the ban will apply where the animals have been inhumanely killed," she said.

"The number of police you would need to demonstrate that is in the realms of fantasy," she argued. "The seal hunt is routinely inhumane. When you are on slippery ice and they are moving and you are moving it is practically impossible to ensure that a seal is humanely killed."

Animal welfare groups want total ban

A harp seal lays on a ice floe
Activists say the decrease in the cull is down to protestsImage: AP

The Canadian fisheries ministry said the number of boats taking part in the first fortnight of the spring hunt this year was markedly down on previous years.

Local media attribute the change to rising oil costs and lower prices for seal fur.

But the opponents of the hunt said it was a result of their protests. "We want a total ban which applies to all countries involved in commercial hunting" of young seals for their pelts, the International Fund for Animal Welfare [IFAW] said, citing Canada but also Russia, Finland and Denmark with Greenland.

The campaign group showed the EU footage taken in Canada last month of baby seals being shot from a hunter aboard ships then clubbed or simply skinned while still alive.

Canada has increased its quota of seals to be hunted to 275,000 this year from 270,000.

The annual commercial seal hunt, which opened March 28 in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, is often marked by confrontations between animal rights protesters and the hunters and Canadian authorities.