Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Advocates for and against Seal Hunt Await WTO Decision on European Union Ban

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Advocates for and against Seal Hunt Await WTO Decision on European Union Ban

Article excerpt

WTO panel to report on EU seal products ban


ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Advocates both for and against Canada's commercial seal hunt will be watching Monday as the World Trade Organization rules on the European Union's ban on imported seal products.

It's a case that affects hunters in Atlantic outports and Inuit communities who say the embargo unfairly discriminates against seal products from Canada.

The ban is hailed by animal welfare activists and has drawn Hollywood star power from the likes of actors Jude Law and Pamela Anderson who want it upheld.

The decision from a WTO dispute settlement panel in Geneva will highlight whether animal welfare is a public morals concern that can justify trade restrictions.

At issue is 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.

The dispute pits those who say commercial hunts are a humane and sustainable way to make cash while controlling seal populations against those who say they're a cruel and needless "slaughter."

The EU ban exempts seal products resulting from Inuit or other aboriginal hunts, along with those carried out solely to manage seal populations and protect fish stocks.

But Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami representing about 55,000 Canadian Inuit, said the EU's approach is wrong-headed and "Orwellian."

"They're basing it on public morals and, when you do that, then you're in danger of all the other industries being banned in the same way. I mean, who's to say what's more cruel? Industrialized agriculture? The poultry, pork and beef industry?

"Who draws the line?"

Audla said the EU exemption for his people is a meaningless "empty box" under a ban that essentially wipes out European markets.

"The value of the pelt, the value of the product is diminished. The trade routes, the export, all of that is pretty much taken away."

Details leaked in October of the WTO's confidential interim report suggest Monday's decision from the WTO dispute settlement panel will be mixed. …

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