Updated: Animal welfare groups applaud as seal ban upheld

Bonnie Belec
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Sealers association dejected; warns herd will grow and consume more fish

The World Trade Organization  (WTO) appeal board decision to uphold the European Union’s ban on seal products is a joke, says the Canadian Sealers Association.
“We’re very, very disappointed,” said Frank Pinhorn, its executive director.
The decision was filed Thursday afternoon.

Fred Henderson loads his truck with seal pelts in Noddy Bay on Newfoundland’s northern peninsula in 2004. — Telegram file photo

 “It makes the whole justice system in Europe look like a joke to me. There’s no foundation for it in law, no foundation for it in science, no foundation for it in animal welfare. We’ve done everything in terms of regulating the East Coast seal harvest — training and certifying our sealers, improving quality-related aspects of the industry — and for them to make a decision like that in such a frivolous manner leaves a lot to be desired,” Pinhorn told The Telegram after the decision was announced.

The EU’s ban on seal products was upheld last year by the WTO, but Canada appealed and was represented in Geneva in March by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who defended the sealing industry during hearings.

Animal welfare groups were quick to react to the news Thursday and called it a historic decision.

“The World Trade Organization not only upheld the right of the EU to ban trade products from the commercial seal hunt, but has also set a precedent, saying animal welfare is a legitimate public concern, a public morality, and it can be the basis for legislation prohibiting trade,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of the Humane Society International/Canada.

During the past five years, she said, more than 1.6 million seals have been saved from the commercial seal hunt and the group is thrilled it will save millions more.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW said it’s a wonderful day for seals.

“The governments of Canada and Norway used every technical argument they could to try to force products from a cruel and unnecessary commercial seal hunts on Europeans. But reason and compassion have triumphed. This is a great day for animal welfare, and the WTO is to be congratulated on this ruling,” said Sheryl Fink, IFAW’s Canadian wildlife programs director, in a news release.

 While the animal welfare groups are celebrating that they’re saving seals, Pinhorn points out that seals, which number in the millions, eat a lot of fish.

“Is this the end of rural Canada as we know it because they all depend upon the ocean for a living? Are we going to let the herd go from the current — all three species combined we have about 10 million — are we satisfied to let them go to 12 or 15 (million)? Because that’s where they’re going,” he said.

In this year’s hunt, Pinhorn said, sealers managed to get only 50,000 animals of the 400,000 quota.

“As a result, the herd is going to get bigger and bigger and bigger,” he said.

“The federal government told us when they were negotiating the free trade agreement with Europe they were going to deal with the seal industry after. Well, after is here,” said Pinhorn.

He said a meeting was already scheduled with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regarding the seal resource, “so I’m sure that is going to trigger a lot of interesting discussions.”

bbelec@thetelegram.com

Earlier story:

The International Fund for Animal Welfare says it’s delighted the World Trade Organization (WTO) appellate body has largely upheld the European Union's ban on seal products.

The IFAW said in a news release today, in an earlier ruling, the WTO found that moral considerations, including concerns about animal welfare, can justify trade restrictions.

“This is a wonderful day for seals," says Sheryl Fink, IFAW's Canadian wildlife programs director. "The governments of Canada and Norway used every technical argument they could to try to force products from a cruel and unnecessary commercial seal hunts on Europeans. But reason and compassion have triumphed. This is a great day for animal welfare, and the WTO is to be congratulated on this ruling."

The IFAW said it applauds the WTO for reiterating the importance of public morality in international trade, and the European Union for taking this principled stand against the "inhumane slaughter" of seals.

"The ban is the result of decades of grassroots opposition to commercial seal hunting, and backed by the most rigorous scientific and socio-economic examination of commercial seal hunts around the world ever conducted. The positive recognition of animal welfare as a legitimate public morals concern affirms the relevance of the WTO in a changing world," the IFAW release states.

Organizations: WTO, European Union

Geographic location: Canada, Norway

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  • Laurella Desborough
    May 25, 2014 - 18:43

    Not that I am pro seal hunting or anti-seal hunting, I am interested in the SCIENCE that is known re seal populations and their growth. Is there a chance that seal populations will reach such a level that there will not be sufficient marine animal food for the seals? Then there will be massive die offs from starvation and disease. Will large seal populations also result in a diminished food source for other species? Have these issues been addressed? This situation involves more than saving seals...it involves the entire ecosystem and whether or not it remains in balance so that all wild species can survive.

  • Seriously?
    May 23, 2014 - 06:44

    Seriously?!? To the other commenters. Do you seriously think the worlds population of any species is ours to control? What happened to the natural selection process of nature?

    • Dion Dakins
      May 24, 2014 - 10:09

      Seriously? Do you think we (humans) are not part of that "natural process?" We are animals and we hunt other animals to survive. Re: Natural selection: Only 50% of pups (seals) born each year survive to be 1 year old. Whether hunted or not. Again 50% make it --- the smartest and fittest seals survive the hunt and natural challenges in that 1st year. This is reality, look it up in any biological text re: population dynamics. Not up for debate! The ones that dye in the hunt experience far less pain and suffering than those that die from starvation, predation by other animals and disease. Humans are the apex predator, don't forget that. We are part of nature, not independent of it.

    • Dion Dakins
      May 24, 2014 - 10:10

      Seriously? Do you think we (humans) are not part of that "natural process?" We are animals and we hunt other animals to survive. Re: Natural selection: Only 50% of pups (seals) born each year survive to be 1 year old. Whether hunted or not. Again 50% make it --- the smartest and fittest seals survive the hunt and natural challenges in that 1st year. This is reality, look it up in any biological text re: population dynamics. Not up for debate! The ones that dye in the hunt experience far less pain and suffering than those that die from starvation, predation by other animals and disease. Humans are the apex predator, don't forget that. We are part of nature, not independent of it.

  • mainlander
    May 22, 2014 - 19:26

    So what's the next thing these morons will protest? Moose? Not cute and cuddly enough? How about deer? Sure to get a lot of support for that. What a farce. This is about making "animal rights" groups rich, not about the seals.

  • Jobie
    May 22, 2014 - 19:26

    overpopulated seals are eating the whale feed now, not mentioned, more whales will be dying off, its not just ice they died off from. animals are not stupid.

  • Hasme Doubts
    May 22, 2014 - 14:43

    People forget that if the markets dry up and the animal rights mob get their way we will always have the option of a massive seal cull summoned by DFO. No different than the kangaroo cull in Australia to protect their farmers crops etc.

  • Steve
    May 22, 2014 - 14:10

    Who is going to collect all the seal caracasses that wash ashore in the coming years due to mass starvation? Because it sure as hell won't be me. On second thought, have them dropped off at the front door of the IFAW.

  • Garry R Moore
    May 22, 2014 - 13:33

    Clearly, not a good outcome for international trade. Public morality basis could be used to block garment trade from Asian nations Use of young girls in Asia and Egypt to make carpets and low labour standards in garment production could be used to challenge trade in these products. In Egypt I visited a factory where girls 8- 10 years of age made carpets - to a westerner it does give one pause to reflect on the morality of using young girls in this manner NGOs could do polling and create a mindset that the public opposes the trade in garment products due to public morality Moore, Garry R - Solutions Inc

  • Brad
    May 22, 2014 - 13:27

    It is actually a bad day for seals as now in the near future there will be a huge cull as the population can't go on like this. Then all the products that could have been sold and used will be put to waste. I don't know why we don't ban things like Foie Gras, and things like shark fin soup, since the EU seems to think it knows best how to manage our resources maybe we can ban a few of their products. Of course we need politicians with an ounce of courage to accomplish that.

  • Dwayne Cull
    May 22, 2014 - 12:12

    OK...so lets ban it entirely and let the world see how these IFAW types react....I'm willing to bet that nothing would change...they'd continue to show pictures of whitecoats and raise money to "stop the cruel slaughter"... It's a no win situation....sadly....