Seal Products Ban Begins

Baby Seal

Europe will implement a ban on the trade of all seal products beginning tomorrow, Friday, August 20, 2010. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)  applauds this momentous legislation as a significant victory in the campaign to end commercial sealing. The EU seal product ban is perhaps the largest single victory in IFAW’s 40-year campaign to end commercial seal hunting. “We are absolutely delighted with this legislation” said Lesley O’Donnell, director of IFAW EU. “It is the culmination of years of hard work and we will continue our efforts until the unnecessary cruelty of commercial sealing ends once and for all.”

The EU ban is significant in that it will prohibit the trade in products from all commercial seal hunts, including those in Canada, Namibia, and Norway, while protecting sealing by Inuit and other indigenous peoples. In the past two years the total number of seals killed in Canada’s commercial seal hunt has dropped dramatically, with less than a quarter of the total allowable catch being taken.

“It’s difficult to say if it was the prospect of the European ban that has saved the lives of nearly half a million seals in the past two years, or if the global lack of demand for seal fur is simply the logical course for such a cruel and unnecessary product,” said Sheryl Fink, director of IFAW’s seal campaign. “What is obvious is that the Canadian government should take this opportunity to bring an end to the seal slaughter. The continuing efforts by Canada to encourage consumption of seal products in other countries such as China show a government completely out of step with world opinion.”

There has been a groundswell of action against commercial seal hunts in recent years. In 2009 Russia announced a ban on the hunting of seals less than one year of age, effectively ending its commercial seal hunt in the White Sea. A total of 30 countries have now banned the sale of seal products, including seven of Canada’s top 10 export markets. Canada and Norway have launched challenges against the EU ban at the World Trade Organization, which are expected to cost many times more than what the sealing industry is worth. Recent public opinion polling shows that the majority of Canadians is opposed to the use of government funds to challenge the EU seal product ban at the WTO, and would rather see their taxes used to phase out the commercial seal hunt.