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Animal welfare groups are calling it the killing blow for the seal-product business in Europe — Canadians are calling it a potential WTO lawsuit. On Tuesday, by a striking margin of 550-49, the European Parliament voted to ban seal products from being imported into any of the 27 member states. There are some exemptions for indigenous communities to continue their traditional means of subsistence, but the commercial industry will be hit hard, particularly in Canada.
That brings great joy to anti-sealing activists in organizations like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which was founded some 40 years ago specifically to try to get the practice stopped.
“The Parliament has hammered the final nail in the coffin of the sealing industry’s market in the EU,” asserted Lesley O’Donnell, director of the EU office of the IFAW. “A complete collapse of Canada’s commercial seal hunt may now be inevitable.”
The Canadian sealing industry agrees with her and is not about to resign itself to that end.
It’s an increasingly desperate situation for seal-hunters, as most other large markets, including the U.S. and Russia, have already instituted such bans.
Canada maintains that its hunters practice humane killing and therefore their products should be exempt from the ban. The Canadian government is prepared to go to battle to save the sector and is threatening to bring the case to the World Trade Organization to try to have it invalidated.
But that’s not a view likely to get much traction in EU institutions. Besides the overwhelming numbers in the parliamentary vote, the European Commission’s official website is hosting a video prepared by the IFAW titled “massacre of baby seals.”
Ironically, the vote came just a day before the EU and Canada held a summit in Prague devoted, among other goals, to increasing trade.