EU court maintains seal fur ban

An EU court in a much-anticipated ruling Thursday upheld a 2010 European Union ban on seal products, throwing out an appeal from fur traders including native Inuit from Canada and Greenland, and Scottish sporran-makers.

The Canada-led campaign to lift the ban on the trade in seal fur and products was joined by the country's largest Inuit group, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), as well as by Scottish suppliers of the sporran pouch made of seal pelt that is part of traditional Highland dress.

"The General Court (of the European Union) dismisses the action," a statement said. "The General Court confirms the validity of the regulation on the marketing of seal products."

The ban has been highly effective in reducing the number of seals killed commercially, with 40,000 in 2011 against 354,000 in 2006. Likewise the price of a pelt has dropped from about 90 euros ($118) to nine in the same timeframe.

However, the governments of Canada and Norway have mounted a separate legal challenge to the EU ban via the World Trade Organisation.

The Luxembourg-based court said the EU law protects the interests of Inuit communities which hunt seals "as an integral part of their culture and identity" by authorising the sale of seal products that "result from hunts traditionally conducted by such indigenous communities for the purpose of their subsistence".