World Trade Organization Upholds Seal Meat Ban

WTO sided with the EU on ban of imported seal meat


The WTO has upheld the European Union's ban on seal meat, but Canada plans to appeal the decision.

The World Trade Organization has sided with the European Union and upheld a 2010 EU ban on imported seal products — including pelts, oil, and meat — saying the ban was justified on moral grounds. Canada and Norway were fighting the ban on the grounds that it was discriminatory and applied inconsistently.

The ban does permit the import of seal meat and other products from Inuit or other aboriginal hunts, or from hunts organized to protect fish stocks. But Norway and Canada say those exceptions are not evenly applied, and critics say the exemptions meaningless because the ban kills demand for all Canadian seal products, regardless of who hunts them.

"It is immoral and inhumane toward the Canadian sealers," said Aaju Peter, an Inuit member of the International Seals and Sealing Network, to the Globe and Mail. "How do we make a living?"

The WTO said Canada and Norway’s complaints had merit, but their complaints were outweighed because the ban "fulfills the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent." The WTO did say the seal product exemptions were being managed unevenly and would have to be readdressed, but the ban overall will remain in place.

European Union citizens were overwhelmingly in favor of the ban, according to The Local.

Canada says it will appeal the ruling.

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