Sunday

27th Sep 2020

WTO backs EU seal fur ban over 'moral concerns'

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has confirmed the EU's controversial ban on seal products, ruling that the ban was a response to "moral concerns."

A report released Monday (25 November) by a WTO panel found that the EU's ban "fulfils the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • It is the first time the WTO has backed a trade restriction based on animal welfare grounds (Photo: Animaldefense)

"No alternative measure was demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution to the fulfilment of the objective."

The ruling is significant because it is the first time that the Swiss-based WTO, which governs and enforces trade between 194 countries across the world, has backed a trade restriction based on animal welfare grounds.

A common but untested belief of many was that countries were not allowed to impose trade restrictions on the basis of how a product is produced.

The WTO ruling was "a victory for seals, animal welfare and Europeans,“ said Sonja Van Tichelen, IFAW EU Regional Director in a statement on Monday (25 November).

“EU leaders can be proud that they have simultaneously protected seals, represented the needs of their citizens and respected EU obligations under the WTO – that is not a simple task,” she added

The EU's ban, which was agreed by MEPs and ministers just before the last European elections in 2009, came into force in August 2010.

It applies to seal products that are produced in the EU and to imported products, with an exemption for Inuit and aboriginal peoples. Animal welfare campaigners have long argued that the seal hunt is cruel and barbaric.

However, the WTO found that several of the ban's exemptions related to products from Inuit communities were illegal because they give imported seal products treatment less favourable than that accorded to like domestic seal products.

Canada and Norway challenged the European Union’s seal products trade ban at the World Trade Organization in early 2012.

While being of great symbolic importance to aboriginal communities, the value of the seal hunt has rapidly declined in recent years.

The landed value of Canada’s 2013 commercial seal hunt was about $2.9 million and 844 sealers participated in the hunt.

Russia is now the main destination for seal products.

Thirty-four countries now ban the trade in seal products, the most recent being Taiwan which closed its market to seal meat, oil and fur in January 2013.

The countries concerned now have 60 days to file an appeal against the ruling.

EU court upholds seal fur ban

The EU ban on seal fur will remain intact after the bloc's highest court threw out a legal challenge by the Canadian Inuit and the country's fur trade.

WTO confirms EU seal trade ban

The EU's four-year-old ban on seal fur will remain in place after the World Trade Organisation rejected an appeal by Canada and Norway.

EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link

Divisions among EU governments remain between those who want to suspend EU funds if rule of law is not respected, and those who want to narrow down conditionality.

MEPs warn of 'significant gaps' in budget talks

The budget committee chair said the European Parliament expects tangible improvements to the package in its talks with member states - while the German minister argued that the EU leaders' deal was difficult enough.

EU forecasts deeper recession, amid recovery funds row

The economies of France, Italy and Spain will contract more then 10-percent this year, according to the latest forecast by the EU executive, as it urges member state governments to strike a deal on the budget and recovery package.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  2. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US
  3. Far right using pandemic to win friends in Germany
  4. Visegrad countries immediately push back on new migration pact
  5. Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?
  6. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  7. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  8. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us