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06/12/2016

Europe strengthens ban on seal products after WTO challenge

Trade & Society

Europe strengthens ban on seal products after WTO challenge

MEPs voted to tighten a ban on seal products on Tuesday (8 September), in a move that campaigners say will protect millions of seals from commercial slaughter. The vote in Strasbourg brings an existing EU embargo into line with WTO rules. The Guardian reports.

MEPs voted to tighten a ban on seal products on Tuesday, in a move that campaigners say will protect millions of seals from commercial slaughter.

The vote in Strasbourg brings an existing EU embargo into line with World Trade Organisation rules.

Two seal-culling nations, Canada and Norway, last year won their first victory at the WTO, when it ruled that two EU exemptions to the ban for indigenous communities violated its rules. These loopholes have now been closed.

“Europe’s citizens have made it quite clear that we don’t want to buy fur and other products from hideously cruel seal slaughters, and we hope that now Canada and Norway will finally accept the will of consumers, and stop these repeated failed challenges,” said Joanna Swabe, the European director of the Humane Society International.

Since 2002, more than 2 million seals have been killed in Canada, the site of one of the largest slaughters of marine mammals on earth.

The products that result from the killings, mostly fur, have now been banned by more than 35 countries, including the US, Russia and Taiwan.

Opinion polls show strong public support for the EU’s ban, first introduced in 2009, with backing from 72% of Europeans and 86% of Canadians.

According to the Labour MEP Catherine Stihler, the EU’s boycott has prevented 2m seals from being clubbed to death, or shot. “Millions more seals will continue to be saved from this gruesome and barbaric practice by a reinforced EU ban,” she said. “The only way such bans work is through cooperation and international action, and on issues like this the EU has led the way, reflecting Europe’s, and the world’s, concerns on animal rights.”

The Green Party MEP Igor Soltes said that the new vote – carried by a majority of 631– would ensure that Europe’s trade boycott was watertight. “We hope all EU member states and partners, including Nordic states, now fully row in behind the ban, which has overwhelmingly popular support across Europe,” he said.

Some Nordic MEPs had tried to introduce an exemption to the ban, where seal products came from hunts necessary to prevent over-population. But the WTO had already ruled that it was practically impossible to distinguish these from commercial hunts, and the amendment was not passed.