Seal hunt under fire again at European Parliament

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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‘Products obtained from this cruel slaughter are not fit for the EU marketplace,’ parliamentarian says

The seal hunt has been raised again in the European Parliament. This time, with debate over Canada’s challenge of the European Union ban on Canadian seal products at the World Trade Organization level.

There are members of the European Parliament (MEPs) publicly calling on Canada to withdraw its challenge to the EU ban. The call comes in the form of an amendment, made to a tabled motion for a resolution on EU-Canada trade relations, as Canada and the European Union continue to discuss a possible free trade agreement.

The seal hunt amendment was proposed by MEP David Martin and states that the EU: “takes note of the recent legal developments regarding the EU’s ban on seal products, in particular Canada’s request to the WTO for the establishment of a formal dispute resolution panel; and expresses its strong hope that Canada will withdraw the WTO challenge, which is counter to positive trade relations, prior to the need for ratification of the (Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement) by the European Parliament.”

European MEP Arlene McCarthy pressed for the seal products ban when it was first adopted in May 2009. She released a statement Monday calling the ban “a victory for people power and a credit to the campaigners involved” before slamming Canada’s challenge at the WTO.

“Canada’s continuing challenge to this law, democratically adopted by all member states in the EU, remains a source of ongoing tension,” she stated. “The European people have a right to say this, that products obtained from this cruel slaughter are not fit for the EU marketplace and I will continue to defend our right to do so.”

Meanwhile, anti-seal hunt organizations, including Humane Society International and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have also come out in strong support of the amendment.

Director of IFAW’s seal program, Sheryl Fink, said she feels a call made at this time by the EU, asking Canada to withdraw its objections to the EU’s ban on seal products, should be of concern to all Canadians.

"Whether or not it actually jeopardizes the trade agreement remains to be seen, but the fact that it could and the fact this continues to be raised as something that could jeopardize a multi-billion dollar agreement with Europe — for an industry that’s brought in, what, $750,000 this year and doesn’t provide very many jobs or employment opportunities at all — is quite startling,” she told The Telegram.

“Our hope is that the new Canadian government will pay attention to this and take note.”

Meanwhile, executive director of the Canadian Sealers’ Association, Frank Pinhorn, said his organization stands by its support of the WTO challenge to the seal product ban.

“There’s no grounds for it whatsoever,” Pinhorn said, promoting the hunting of seals as being the same as any fishery.

He also claimed the EU had no ground to stand on when it came to objecting to the hunt, as seals are killed in Scotland to keep them from poaching fish from aquaculture sites and Norway has its own history with seals.

However, he added the Canadian Sealers’ Association is also objecting to any discussions on a new trade agreement between Canada and the European Union until the seal product issue is settled.

“We’ve said right from Day 1 that Canada should not be over there negotiating a free trade agreement with the Europeans at the expense of East Coast seal harvest,” he said.

Also today, the IFAW has been promoting videos obtained by Fink and several others at this year’s seal harvest at the Front, off Newfoundland and Labrador. Fink has said the videos are of illegal sealing practices.

As The Telegram reported in April, the organization submitted the videos to officials with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). A DFO spokesman said the reports of illegal activity by sealers were being investigated.

No charges have been laid against any sealers who took part in the seal hunt this year.

More on this story in tomorrow’s edition of The Telegram.

NOTE: Edit made at approximately 2:15 p.m.

Organizations: European Union, European Parliament, World Trade Organization IFAW The Telegram Canadian Sealers International Fund for Animal Welfare DFO Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Canada, Europe, Scotland Norway East Coast Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Rhys Toogood
    June 18, 2011 - 17:21

    The actual wording of the motion is : 13. Takes note of the recent legal developments regarding the EU's ban on seal products, in particular Canada’s request to the WTO for the establishment of a formal dispute resolution panel; expresses its hope that disagreements between the parties can be overcome amicably and without affecting the CETA negotiations; Not as reported by the animal rights atavist MEP's see here for full text : Estonia is another EU country that will kill Seals this year, they have 4,000 and have legalised killing them.

  • Bridget Curran
    June 13, 2011 - 06:01

    Someone should tell Mr. Pinhorn Norway is not part of the EU. Honestly, people? Are we still making lame justifications for the commercial seal slaughter by pointing out pigs and chickens are killed too? Yes, animals die in horrendous ways in slaughterhouses every day. Does one evil excuse another? No. Also, to continue to insist seals must be killed to protect fish stocks is ignoring scientific evidence seals benefit fish stocks. A prime example -- groundfish stocks in Scotlan Shelf waters - waters teaming with a large population of grey seals - is rebounding. It makes no sense to jeopardize a lucrative trade deal in order to protect a unprofitable and inhumane industry the majority of Canadians do not want. It would be cheaper for the Canadian govt to abolish the seal hunt and implement a licence buyout program for sealers, rather than continuing to lavish millions of our tax dollars on the annual slaughter and on expensive and futile WTO challenges.

    • Rhys Toogood
      June 15, 2011 - 18:22

      Norway is not a member of the EU, but Sweden is. Sweden is carrying out a cull of a few hundred of the 10,000 Seals in the Baltic this year, in response to claims of damage to fishermen's nets. The killing in Scotland is quite barbaric by Canadian Standards. The Seal is shot with .22 Calibre rifle, if it swims close to fishermen's nets. No figures are recorded, but possibly 5,000 a year are killed this way. Interpreting other Scientific studies about 10% will be wounded and suffer a prolonged death.

  • allan tulli
    June 09, 2011 - 18:00

    Perhaps we should teach European union a lesson and allow no more uranium to be taken from Canada for European countries to power there reactors. You want to terll Canadians how to live and manage their resources perhaps we should tell you what we are willing to sell you and if you don't like it there are plenty of other non-european countries who will buy our raw resources especially Uranium.

  • C Price
    June 09, 2011 - 13:24

    Pinhorn: “We’ve said right from Day 1 that Canada should not be over there negotiating a free trade agreement with the Europeans at the expense of East Coast seal harvest." This shows that he and the Canadian Sealers Assn. are desperately trying to hold on to the ways of the past, fearful of moving forward into the more modern, eco-consciencious world, despite offers of alternatives. They live in a bubble which the rest of Canada is tired of and will not tolerate at the expense of a trade agreement that would benefit all the rest of us.

  • John
    June 09, 2011 - 08:48

    What will the do-gooders have to say when the fish are all gone from the ocean. There will have to be a cull, and soon. This cull will probably about 2 million seals which is more than 5 years hunting quota. One seal eats about 50-60 lbs a day. There are presently about 7 million seals - do the math.

    • nick wilson
      June 09, 2011 - 10:20

      To John, who posted on June 9th, 9 02am....Are you trying to say that the culling of seals somehow protects fish stocks?? What a ludicrous statement to make, it is mankind that is decimating and effectively raping the oceans, the seal/fish populations got on just fine until we came along!!

  • beverley bailey
    June 09, 2011 - 07:18

    To Military Man, surely you know your history and your geography better than that. There was no EU during the world wars (which is what I assume you are talking when you say 'No one from the EU complained when some of the the worst slaughters in history occurred on EU soil and the Canadians paid a heavy price for their freedom!' And if the other countries that fought alongside Canada against the Germans were not 'complaining', then what on earth do you think they were doing? You dishonour all those of all nationalities that fought against Hitler. And for what? To protect the honour of those who continue to perpetuate a cruel and barbaric practice that is condemned on an international basis. Silly man. As for 'You're in Left Field', it seems you are wrong - 'a few seals' are indeed getting in the way of an agreement worth millions. Well done Anne McCarthy and David Martin, MEPs.

  • GD
    June 08, 2011 - 20:01

    @Left Field -- Canada would be stupid to let a free trade deal worth billions (as you rightly state),which would create thousands of new jobs all across Canada, go down the drain over a few hundred sealer jobs in a cruel and ailing industry. Good news is that most Canadians would happily subsidize retraining sealers for other work.

  • Military Man
    June 08, 2011 - 15:14

    Time to stand up to the EU. No one from the EU complained when some of the the worst slaughters in history occurred on EU soil and the Canadians paid a heavy price for their freedom! Next time they're on the brink of anihilation, let them defend themselves.

  • Liberal do-gooders
    June 08, 2011 - 13:47

    Yeah, brutal slaughter my rear end! More typical European liberal hypocracy. They treat the Chinese the same way! Name a continent that destroyed entire cultures and economies the way the European colonialists did! Not to mention two world wars and a cold war. Yet they have the audacity to proclaim that Canada, a small country that harms virtually no one or nothing, is a "slaughter house". Even still, the seal hunt is nothing but a small hunt compared to the mega-industry that is the beef and poultry global industries. Yet this flower headed granolas have to pick a fight with the smallest, easiest target to make noise and "progress" in their consistent denial of basic human endeavours. No need to get upset though, as the Russians, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans don't have as much guilt about seal fur. Of course, anti-fur is largely what's behind this, but nobody cares, it's like the same fools who think meat=murder. You'll hear it a million times and it will make zero sense. 2 and a half million years of human hunting won't disappear over a bullying trade dispute. Maybe they instead should look at how they treat Roma and Jews to this very day!! I just suppose they don't think Newfoundland has a culture to destroy.

  • keith
    June 08, 2011 - 13:23

    Brenda Armour, mammals are killed every day throughout the world, the seal hunt is only a very small fraction of the mammals killed in the world, the only difference is that its in the open where everyone can see, and the seal is an exotic animal to most in the world unlike a cow.

  • Brenda Armour
    June 08, 2011 - 13:06

    Mr. Pinhorn your objections to Scotland and Norway may be valid. But no one does it better than Canada. The largest most brutal slaughter of mammals on the planet. Of the 400,000 quota that was set only 32,000 were killed. Now the appeal to the WTO may jeopardize the free trade agreement. This agreement could benefit Newfoundland with new jobs and sustainable industries. Harper and Gail Shea were always after votes and have little regard for Atlantic Canadians.

    • Seamus
      June 08, 2011 - 14:17

      Brenda, last time I checked cows were mammals and there are far moer the 400,000 of those killed anually. Free trade is a bad idea anyway as the creation of free trade has just led to the destruction of locally based economies, the exploitation of developing nations, and is largely responsible for global warming.

    • You're in Left Field
      June 08, 2011 - 14:41

      All the EU wants from Canada in a free trade deal is access to our resources but they're not going to get to pick and choose. I doubt anyone is foolish enough, on either side of the pond, to let a few seals get in the way of an agreement worth billions.