May 6, 2009

EU Set To Carry Out Ban On Seal Products

New legislation from the European Parliament will ban the sale of seal products in the 27-nation EU, BBC News reported.

Animal welfare groups, which have long argued that the clubbing of seal pups by hunters is barbaric, had been lobbying for the change for years.

Some 300,000 seals are killed off Canada's east coast annually in the biggest seal hunt in the world. Anti-hunt campaigners are outraged that some seals are skinned while still conscious. And most hunters typically shoot the seals with rifles or bludgeon them to death with spiked clubs to sell or trade the animals' pelts, fat and meat.

But seal products from Canada's traditional hunters, such as the Arctic Inuit community, will be exempt under the EU law.

Some are concerned that the vote could overshadow EU-Canadian trade talks opening in the Czech capital Prague on Wednesday.

EU ministers still have to agree on the proposed ban before it can take effect, but correspondents say it is likely to be imposed before the 2010 hunting season begins.

Officials in the Inuit delegation from Canada's Nunavut territory tried to persuade MEPs not to back the ban, arguing that a European ban on the import of whitecoat and blueback seal pelts in 1983 had hit the Inuit hard.

Joshua Kango, a delegation member, said the exemption didn't stop the market collapse or the hardship and suicides that followed throughout the community.

"The vast majority of people across Europe are horrified by the cruel clubbing to death of seals and this law will finally put an end to the cruel cull of nearly 300,000 seals a year," said labor MEP Arlene McCarthy, who helped draft the new EU ban.

However, the AFP news agency reported that Canada has threatened to complain to the World Trade Organization (WTO) if the EU ban goes ahead.

Greenland, a Danish territory, and Namibia also depend on seal hunting for a large portion of its income, as seals are also used for the production of gloves and Omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

But in the EU, seals are culled on a much smaller scale in Sweden, Finland and the UK, mainly for fish stock management.

The EU ban will not apply to such culling, which comes under "sustainable management of marine resources," according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The EU's Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas' proposal last year will be followed up by the MEP. Dimas said his office had received thousands of demands from campaigners in the UK, the US and Canada for an official ban.

Seal products have already received a ban in Belgium and the Netherlands, and the United States has banned seal products from Canada since 1972.


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