Thursday, August 19, 2010

European Union Ban on the Trade of All Seal Products Begins: Victory in Action

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here. Hopefully this will help lead to the end of such brutal practices as the annual baby seal slaughter in Canada.


EU Seal Trade Ban Begins

By John W. Miller

This week marks the beginning of a European Union ban on the trade of all seal products, except for those hunted by traditional methods. (Those aren’t necessarily more humane; they also involve shooting seals, just far fewer of them.)

Animal welfare groups fought for decades to secure the ban, and they say it is their biggest ever victory. “I can’t think of a bigger one,” says Adrian Hiel of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. IFAW credits the impending ban with helping to reduce the haul of Canada’s commercial hunt by hundreds of thousands of seals over the past two years.

So what’s next for animal welfare groups?

Says Mr. Hiel: Fighting trade in two other rare animal products: whale meat and ivory. It is illegal to import both into the EU, though smugglers do try.

There is currently an international moratorium on hunting whales, which some countries, led by Japan, are trying to overturn. Animal rights groups want the EU to stay committed to the moratorium. Earlier this year, a batch of whale meat that was discovered imported into Latvia from Iceland. It was immediately tracked down and destroyed.

Ivory often gets smuggled from Africa to China. IFAW and other groups are lobbying the EU to fund efforts to fight poachers and smugglers in Africa. “African countries don’t have the resources to properly protect their parks and animals,” says Mr. Hiel.

Meanwhile, the fight over the seal trade is perhaps not over. Canada has challenged the EU ban at the World Trade Organization, on the grounds that it constitutes illegal discrimination.

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