November 25, 2013
HSI Applauds the World Trade Organization for Upholding EU Seal Products Trade Ban
The World Trade Organization released the final report regarding the Canadian and Norwegian challenge of the European Union ban on trade in products of commercial seal hunts. Humane Society International played a central role in helping to defend the ban. Extensive HSI video evidence of commercial sealing was shown to the WTO panel, HSI coauthored an Amicus Brief that was considered in the case, and HSI representatives attended the Panel hearings.
HSI/Canada Executive Director Rebecca Aldworth, who has observed Canada’s commercial seal slaughter for each of the past 15 years, issued the following statement in response to the report:
"The WTO's decision to uphold the EU trade ban on cruel products of commercial seal slaughters sets an important precedent for other nations that choose not to subsidize animal abuse. Virtually no one in the world wants to buy seal products, and the WTO ruling confirms that these markets won’t miraculously reopen. Instead of waging pointless WTO challenges that cost Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars, our government should invest in a one-time transition program for sealers.”
- Eighty-six percent of Canadians supported the right of the European Union to prohibit trade in seal products (Environics Research, 2008).
- In 2010, Canada and Norway launched a WTO challenge against the European Union in response to its seal product trade ban. All parties presented their cases earlier this year and the WTO panel has issued its final report to the parties. Parties can challenge the decision, a process that could take more than a year. During this time, the ban can remain in place and, regardless of the outcome, the EU has many options, including retaining the ban in its original form or a modified version.
- Humane Society International has campaigned to end Canada’s commercial seal hunt for many years, documenting the commercial seal slaughter each year and escorting media and parliamentarians doing the same. HSI has also worked to remove the economic incentives for fishermen to commercially slaughter seals.
- Global markets for seal products are closing fast. In 2009, the European Union joined the United States, Mexico and Croatia in prohibiting trade in products of commercial seal hunts. In 2011, the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus prohibited trade in harp seal fur and, in 2013 Taiwan ended its trade in all marine mammal products (including seal products).
- With more than 2 million seals killed since 2002 alone, Canada’s commercial seal slaughter is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on Earth.
- The seals are killed primarily for their fur and because the skins of very young pups are the most valuable, 98 percent of the seals killed are less than 3 months old at the time of slaughter.
- Because most Canadians oppose commercial sealing, the sealing industry relies almost exclusively on export markets to sell its products.