World Trade Organization says seal ban breaks rules but is justified

The Canadian Press
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The World Trade Organization has ruled that while the European Union ban on imported seal products does undermine fair trade, those restrictions can be justified on “public moral concerns” for animal welfare.

Wayde George handles pelts at the seal tannery in Dildo. It’s a labour-intensive process that takes more than three weeks to fully cure and tan a sealskin.  —Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

It’s a partial victory for advocates both for and against Canada’s commercial seal hunt.

The report from a WTO dispute settlement panel affects hunters in Atlantic outports and Inuit communities who say the embargo discriminates against Canadian seal products.

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

Canada and Norway challenged the EU’s three-year-old ban, saying it unfairly blocks products from their commercial seal hunts.

Ottawa says commercial hunts are humane and sustainable, while critics 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 ocean resources.

There are 60 days to appeal the WTO decision.

Organizations: World Trade Organization, EU

Geographic location: Canada, Hollywood, Norway Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • H Jefford
    November 27, 2013 - 07:29

    I was reading a report online, of the northern cod stock, that the fish mass is in the decline , this must be the result of the Great seal herd on the incline, The NTV news should have a copy of a news broad cast that they Showed on the NTV News, Of a herd of seals, Hunting like a pack of wolves in a small bay or cove, the seals were forcing a school of cod fish upon the beach or shore line, like a school of caplin , people were picking up live cod fish that were driven upon the beach, The fishermen that filmed this happen, told me that the small cove where this was filmed was 3-4 ft deep in dead fish with their bellies ripped open, It is said the seals only eat the fish livers. ? could the GREAT SEAL MASS HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE DECLINE OF THE FISH STOCK, OR WHAT DOES THE GREAT SEAL HERD EAT GRASS?

  • Garry R Moore
    November 25, 2013 - 19:49

    Article XX: General Exceptions: (a) necessary to protect public morals " necessary to protect public morals" - these words were used as a basis by the WTO panel to uphold the EU seal ban Use of public morals could be used to block trade in many domains such as fur, animal products, carpet and garment products Having visited Egypt and watched 10 year old girls in a factory on the Nile river make carpets one could be moved to impose a ban on the importation of high quality Egyptian carpets because Canadians strongly oppose the use of child labor - hence it would be a measure " necessary to protect public morals" End result would be that 1000s of young Egyptian girls would be released from their work with a sharp impact on their family incomes - how would this be helpful to low income families ? Labor codes in many parts of Asia, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are sub-standard to North American and the EU WTO panel on seals may have opened a pandora's box for an entirely new chapter in trade disputes based on public morals Moore, Garry R - Solutions Inc

  • Christine
    November 25, 2013 - 19:16

    I am certainly going to be paying more attention to labels from now on in!! European countries will not get one iota of my money in buying their products!! Olive oil, chocolate, cheese, wine, vodka etc. .. people are starving to death in so many parts of the world and seal is in abundance to the point that cod stocks cannot recover not to mention European overfishing off the tail and the nose of the Grand Banks!! These same people would not think twice about flushing a once live human down a toilet. By the way!! Jude who???

  • Alex
    November 25, 2013 - 19:06

    If the EU ban exempts seal products resulting from The EU ban exempts seal products resulting from Inuit or other aboriginal hunts then why dont the Inuit or other aboriginal groups get together and run the sealing industry? Let the sealers get paid from this group for harvesting the seals and let this new formed group sell the product over seas. I am sure the government could find a few dollars to get them started, they can for everything else. Sounds like a new industry to me.

  • JJ
    November 25, 2013 - 13:42

    Chalk up another win for the bleeding heart animal rights group. You can all go home and rejoice that your use of misinformation and outdated and irrelevant photos and videos has effectively cheated hundreds of people out of a living. I am glad to see Ottawa has actually stood up to the plate and appealed the decision. Disgusted that this story will undoubtedly be released across the country and the world with the requisite picture of a fluffy, cuddly baby seal which has nothing whatsoever to do with the seal hunt. I'm so tired of people acting like those of us who actually hunt are just one step away from mass murderer or serial killer status. I was really hoping the WTO was big enough and professional enough to sift through the lies and propoganda and see the seal hunt for what it actually is: sustainable, humane and an important part of thousands of peoples lives both economically and traditionally.

    • PA
      November 25, 2013 - 14:08

      How is killing a defenceless, sentient being HUMANE?

  • S. Loxton
    November 25, 2013 - 13:41

    Factory farming is far less humane...

  • ggb
    November 25, 2013 - 12:43

    It saddens me to think that an organization such as the WTO are misguided and misinformed on this issue. The wild seal hunt is a sustainable hunt and the source of one of the healthiest highest quality proteins available on this planet. The seals are harvested with pride by fishers who are respectful of both nature and man.I wish the WTO and other misguided people would take the time to seek knowledge of this hunt and direct their energy towards cleaning up the aquafarms that exist in Vietnam and Thailand etc. or other issues that are truly important to this planet.

  • Rob
    November 25, 2013 - 11:52

    Ugh. The Telegram's use of a picture of a whitecoat baby seal only serves to further the myths that the anti-sealing crowd put forward. Please change the picture to something representative of the hunt as it exists today, rather than the 70s.

  • Jeremiah
    November 25, 2013 - 11:51

    Why is there a pic of a whitecoat attached to this article? Why not a pic of an adult seal? Whitecoats are not hunted. Talk about playing into the hands of the lunatic fringe.

  • Jeremiah
    November 25, 2013 - 11:49

    Why is there a pic of a whitecoat attached to this article? Why not a pic of an adult seal? Whitecoats are not hunted. Talk about playing into the hands of the lunatic fringe.