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Harp seal on an ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada
The EU is closed to imports of Canadian seal productsImage: AP

Seal ban

October 28, 2010

A European Union ban on importing seal products has been reinstated after indigenous hunters failed to convince an EU court to keep a moratorium in place, dealing a blow to Canada’s Inuit fur traders.


The European Union's original decision to ban such imports angered Canada and prompted a legal challenge by Inuit groups from Canada and Greenland.

The EU's Court of Justice temporarily suspended the ban in August of this year, accepting a request by Inuit companies that export seal products.

But, a judicial panel has now ruled that there was no legal basis to make the moratorium permanent because the plaintiffs had not proven that they had incurred financial damages due to the ban.

“This is a real milestone for animal welfare,” said Adrian Hiel of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), an environmental lobby group in Brussels.

Hunters skinning a seal
Ban affects traditional and commercial hunters alikeImage: AP

But Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has described the ban as “completely unfair” and as “flagrant discrimination” against sealers who follow established rules of animal husbandry.

EU member states and the European Parliament decided last year to restrict trade in seal products, heeding environmental arguments that commercial seal hunting was cruel.

The EU measure has been challenged separately by the Canadian and Norwegian governments through formal complaints to the World Trade Organization, and those cases are still pending.

Canada's 6,000 seal hunters earn about seven million euros ($9.8 million), annually, with a quarter of their hunt exported to Europe.

Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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