Seal Hunt 2009 - Political Actions for and Against the Slaughter

Wednesday, 6 May 2009
EU approves ban on seal imports
May 05, 2009 07:49 AMConstant BrandTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS
STRASBOURG, France–The European Parliament approved plans to slap a European Union import ban on seal products Tuesday, a move meant to force an end to Canada's annual seal hunt, which is the world's largest.
The EU assembly overwhelmingly endorsed a bill which said commercial seal hunting, notably in Canada, is "inherently inhumane."
The bill still needs the backing of EU governments, which officials said is only a formality since national envoys had already endorsed the bill prior to Tuesday's vote.
The bill is expected to become law in a matter of weeks ensuring it is in place before next year's seal hunt.
Animal welfare activists rejoiced, saying the vote was a significant step toward ending the Canadian seal hunt.
"We're absolutely thrilled," said Rebecca Aldworth, a spokeswoman for the Canadian branch of the Humane Society International who attended the vote in Strasbourg.
"This is a historic moment in the campaign to stop commercial seal hunts around the world, particularly in Canada. This is a really tremendous victory for everyone all over the world who's been calling for this for decades".
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also welcomed the vote and said it addressed "EU citizen's concerns with regard to the cruel hunting methods of seals."
Tuesday's vote however, is sure to pose problems in EU-Canada ties and comes on the eve of a key summit between the two countries in Prague where they are supposed to launch negotiations on a wide-ranging free-trade pact.
Canada and Norway, had already warned the EU they would take the 27-country bloc to the World Trade Organization if it moved to ban seal product imports.
The ban will apply to all products and processed goods derived from seals including their skins which are used to make fur coats, meat, oil blubber, organs and even omega 3 pills which are made from seal oil.
The new EU rule, however, will offer narrow exemptions to Inuit communities from Canada and Greenland and elsewhere to continue their traditional hunts but bars them from a large-scale trading of their pelts, and other seal goods in Europe. Another exemption will allow for non-commercial and "small-scale" hunts to manage seal populations, however seal products derived from those hunts will not be allowed to enter the EU.
Inuit groups say such restrictions will spell disaster for their communities which rely heavily on seal hunts for their livelihoods.
Joshua Kango, who heads the Nunavut-based Amarok hunters and trappers association said the ban "is definitely going to impact the lives of the Inuit in the very near future." "We don't have any other way to survive economically," he told The Associated Press.
Arlene McCarthy, who chairs the European Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee said Canada and others could not ignore the fact that a majority of Europeans are against the hunt and wanted it banned.
She added that concern took precedence over the concerns of sealers, fishermen and Inuit groups that carry out commercial hunts.
"While we of course have sympathy for those particular groups of people, the reality is that we sit here in the European Parliament and that millions of our citizens would like us to do the right thing and ban the cruel trade. They do not want to buy these products," she said.
The legislators faced heavy lobbying in recent months from both animal rights groups and authorities from Canada and Greenland. Curbing the hunt of seals in Canada has been the focus of the bill because of the size of its annual cull and the way seals are killed.
Canada's East Coast seal hunt is the largest of its kind in the world, with an average annual kill of about 300,000 harp seals. It exported around $5.5 million worth of seal products such as pelts, meat, and oils to the EU in 2006.
Animal rights groups believe the hunt is cruel, poorly monitored and provides little economic benefit once costs associated with policing and supporting the hunt are factored in. However, sealers and Canadian authorities say it is sustainable, humane and provides income for isolated fishing communities.
Seals are also hunted in Norway, Namibia, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
With files from the Canadian Press


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