The European Parliament is this week expected to strengthen the rules on the trade in seal products, to the delight of animal lovers across Europe.
The EU’s general ban was challenged by Canada and Norway at the World Trade Organisation in 2014. Not only was the ban deemed justifiable on moral grounds regarding the welfare of seals but also the ‘marine resource management’ exception was deemed unjustified, as the distinction between a commercial hunts and an MRM hunt is foggy at best.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament will vote on the proposal to bring the EU law into line with the WTO ruling. Both the existing and updated law does not ban seal hunts for the purpose of controlling populations, but it does ban the commercialisation of seal products from the hunts, in order to ensure that the profit motive does not take over from the population management motive.
Alyn Smith MEP said:
“This is a real example of trade policy in action. Obviously, people across Scotland have strong views on the seal hunt, but we're also aware that Canada, Norway, and indeed Iceland and the Faroes who have been closely watching the case, are some of our closest friends.
"I'm confident this is a robust set of rules that make clear what Europe's citizens want to see, but that do not penalise indigenous small scale trade and ecosystem management.
“The basic regulation that states seal products placed on the EU market may only have resulted from hunts traditionally conducted by indigenous communities and which contribute to their subsistence.
"People across Scotland - and the EU - made their views clear on seal products. I well remember the lobbying as we passed the original legislation. Had the WTO ruled instead that we should not have put ethical concerns into practice, it would have been an appalling affront to democracy. I'm glad that the WTO backed our position, and I have faith that my colleagues will back it again on Tuesday."
Today’s reading follows a ruling from the European Court of Justice that dismissed an appeal brought by the organisation Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami that challenged the basic regulation
In 2009, the EU adopted a general ban on products derived from seals, with the two main exceptions being products from Inuit hunts for sustenance, and marine resource management (the ‘MRM exception’).