Ottawa Plans to Appeal Ruling from World Trade Organization on EU Seal Ban

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Ottawa to appeal WTO ruling on EU seal ban

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Ottawa will appeal a World Trade Organization ruling that says aspects of Europe's ban on imported seal products undermine fair trade but can be justified on "public moral concerns" for animal welfare.

While anti-sealing advocates say it's a landmark victory that upholds the European Union embargo, the WTO points out inconsistencies that it wants fixed.

A dispute settlement panel reported Monday that exceptions under the ban for aboriginal hunts and those conducted to manage seal populations and protect fish stocks are not being fairly applied. As a consequence, those exemptions "accord imported seal products treatment less favourable" than for domestic and some other foreign products.

The panel recommends that the WTO ask the EU to bring such measures in line with its international trade commitments.

However, the report also finds that the ban "fulfils the objective of addressing the EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent, and no alternative measure has been demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution" to that goal.

The decision affects hunters in Atlantic outports and Inuit communities who say the embargo discriminates against Canadian seal products.

The federal government said in a statement that it will appeal.

"Canada remains steadfast in its position that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity. Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation, and the panel's findings should be of concern to all WTO members."

At issue was a challenge by Canada and Norway of the 28-member EU's 2010 ban on the import and sale of seal fur, meat, blubber and other products.

Norway argued that the embargo unfairly exempts some seal products, including from some smaller-scale European hunts, but not those from its commercial hunt.

Ottawa has staunchly defended sealers, talked up the potential of other markets such as China, and deflected animal rights protests as it supported seal meat tastings for MPs and senators. …