Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Legal battle continues over European Union seal products ban

Legal battle continues over European Union seal products ban, The World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva is hosting the second round of hearings concerning the European Union’s ban on seal products Monday, April 29, 2013 to Tuesday, April 30, 2013. The Canadian and Norwegian governments both filed legal challenges to the ban in an attempt to have the EU’s decision overturned. The first round of hearings was held February 18, 2013 through February 20, 2013.

The Humane Society International is the only organization documenting this year’s seal slaughter. For the past three weeks, they gathered stile photographs and video which is being presented at the talks. Humane Society International Executive Director Rebecca Aldworth, who is observing the WTO hearing, issued the following response to opening statements:

“Canada and Norway are yet again resorting to misinformation in their futile attempts to defend the indefensible. In contrast to Canada’s claims, veterinary studies suggest commercial sealing is inherently inhumane. The studies identified high levels of inaccurate shooting and clubbing; excessive delays between stunning, monitoring and bleeding; gaffing of conscious seals onto sealing vessels; a widespread disregard by sealers for sealing regulations; and a failure by authorities to monitor the killing and enforce the regulations. To support its position, Canada relies heavily on one veterinary study produced by a director of the Fur Institute of Canada, yet even this study details unacceptable suffering at the commercial seal slaughter.

In contrast to Norway’s statements, the true threats to fisheries are primarily human caused. The greatest predator of fish in the ocean is other fish, not marine mammals. Seals are a vital part of the ecosystem of the northwest Atlantic and consume many predators of commercially valuable fish species. Scientists argue a seal cull could increase fish predation and threaten remaining fish stocks.

The European Union has presented considerable scientific evidence that both Canada and Norway’s seal slaughters are inherently inhumane and that the EU ban on seal product trade is entirely justified from public morality and animal welfare perspectives. In making its case, the EU also showed images filmed by HSI at the 2013 commercial seal slaughter, including wounded seals suffering in agony and gaffed while presumably conscious onto sealing vessels.

Notably, Canada claimed in its statement that some Inuit seal hunts involve greater suffering than commercial sealing by non-aboriginals. Amazingly, certain Inuit groups continue to align themselves with the Canadian government.”

In a related challenge to the seal ban, the European General court upheld the European Union’s ban on the trade of commercial seal products last Thursday, April 25, 2013. This ruling put a halt to the sealing and fur trade industries and some Inuit representatives’ effort to “undermine the ban”.

National polls reveal that most Canadians want an end to the seal slaughter and oppose their tax dollars funding the seal industry. According to harpseals.org, 55,496 harp seal pups were killed off Newfoundland and Labrador since April 9, 2013. Another 25,652 pups were killed in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Also, 1,600 harp seal pups were killed in March in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. “Thus the total number of seal pups killed so far is about 82,748, which is 13,573 more than last year.” This number does not include seal pups that were shot but managed to get away and probably bleed to death.

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