Fur Institute of Canada, March 27, 2009 – “The decision taken today in Brussels to support a complete ban on the trade in all seal products has been made for political expediency,” says Fur Institute of Canada executive director Rob Cahill.
Cahill was responding to the decision by the Ambassadors representing European Union Member States (COREPER), a decision that is not supported by either sound science or the EU’s own legal opinion.
The Council of European Member States have voted against their own legal counsel opinion that such a ban is contrary to EU law, he said, and to a recent legal opinion by the World Trade Organization (WTO) which states that it is contrary to international law.
Despite Inuit leaders’ statements that any kind of ban with an Inuit exemption will still have a detrimental impact to their people, EU decision makers are patting themselves on the back that they have protected Inuit interests. By allowing Inuit seal products into the EU for ‘cultural purposes’ – like museums– while denying them the opportunity to sell these products into Europe for much needed income, the EU will be harming more than just East Coast fishermen.
Anti-sealing lobby groups say this decision will stop the hunting of seals. According to Cahill, this is where they are seriously misleading decision makers and the public. Seals are hunted around the world, including European countries, to manage their populations. Global seal populations are on the rise for most species and fish populations are in decline. In Canada, seals eat approximately seven times what Canadian fishermen are allowed to catch. Canadian fishing communities, who rely on declining fish stocks are also those who hunt seals – they will now be losing on both ends.
Meantime, a ban on the trade of seal products into Europe will not affect the hunting of seals for population management.
One option before the EU is to establish criteria and standards for the hunting of seals that, if met, will allow seal products to continue to be traded into the EU. This would provide an important incentive to meet the highest level of welfare, Cahill said. “Seals will continue to be hunted to manage their populations, without the incentive for best practices. So, the EU is not discouraging the killing of seals, but rather the responsible use of animals that are managed under regulated hunting programs.”
Cahill concluded by saying that, “Sadly, the EU decision is a missed opportunity to show environmental and animal welfare leadership and cultural respect.”
The Seals and Sealing Network operates under the Fur Institute of Canada, a national non-profit organization promoting sustainable and wise use principles. The Seals and Sealing Network is committed to the conservation and respectful harvesting of the world’s seal species through sound scientific management and internationally accepted sustainable use practices. It comprises government, Inuit, veterinarians, conservationists, health care practitioners and Industry representatives. For more information, please go to www.fur.ca or www.sealsandsealing.net.