25th Feb 2020

Little support for EU seal ban up north

  • A protest in favour of the EU seal ban outside the European Parliament in 2009 (Photo: EUobserver)

Most delegates meeting for an Arctic Council ministerial in Greenland on Thursday (12 May) had few words of support for the EU's ban on seal product imports, currently facing a challenge in the World Trade Organisation.

"I'm Inuit from Canada's Arctic … I was born and raised eating seal, I'm a product of the environment that I grew up in," Canadian health minister Leona Aglukkaq told journalists at the meeting.

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"I'm proud of our prime minister's stand of support for Canadian sealers," she added.

Both Canada and Norway lodged complaints with the WTO against the EU ban in 2009, with the international trade body recently deciding to merge the two complaints.

The EU's decision followed intense campaigning from several environmental groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, but has since faced a backlash from indigenous groups who traditionally hunt seals for meat and clothing materials.

The ban, imposed in 2010, includes an exemption for seal products derived from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and indigenous communities for subsistence, but the groups say they are still negatively affected by the shrinking market.

"I think it's complete hypocrisy, in European factory farms animals suffer much more than the seals we kill," Mattias Ahren of the Sammi Council, an NGO which represents Saami member organisations in Finland, Russia, Norway and Sweden, told this website.

"It's just populist, it make no sense, it's not that seals are becoming extinct."

Tension over the subject has soured the EU's relationship with Canada, at a time when the former is pushing to gain 'permanent observer' status at the increasingly important Arctic Council decision-making forum.

This article was corrected to the mention the International Fund for Animal Welfare and not Greenpeace as originally stated

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