Monday

24th Feb 2020

EU court suspends seal ban, surprising Brussels

  • An anti-seal hunt protesters' mascot in Strasbourg: Inuit sealers appear to have won an injunction against the EU ban (Photo: EUobserver)

The European General Court has ordered a suspension of the EU's seal product ban just as the regulation was due to enter into force.

According to an order of the court obtained by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a Canadian Inuit organisation, and published on their website late on Thursday (19 August), the EU's lower court said it is to "suspend application of [the regulation] until the General Court has rendered judgement."

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The injunction was requested by the Inuit while a group of Canadian and Greenlandic Inuit organisations pursued a case against Brussels over last year's passage of a ban on seal products that was set to enter into force on Friday.

The lawsuit was launched alongside efforts by the Canadian government to have the law struck down by the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.

"In our view, the seal ban is both illegal and immoral. Although we are not sure what future action the EU Court will take in this case, I welcome the current decision by the Court to stop the implementation of the ban as scheduled," said Mary Simon, the ITK national leader.

"I can only hope that the EU Court will determine that the ban and its so-called Inuit exemption are illegal. That would be a fitting conclusion to this totally unjustified action."

However, confusing the issue, the court has yet to issue notification of the suspension, while the document posted on the ITK site is dated 19 August.

Additionally, contradicting the ITK statement, European Commission environment spokeswoman Maria Kokkonen told EUobserver that the regulation will enter in to force on Friday as expected.

The commission was surprised at the development, with officials saying they would have to check to confirm the court ruling.

The EU law provides an exception for Inuit seal products, but the groups maintain that when the market for seal products collapses, it collapses for them too.

In April this year ahead of the ban being implemented, most Canadian sealers stayed at home as they had been unable to find buyers for their product, while almost all of the country's seal processing firms were closed.

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