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European Union Seal Import Ban

Call for seal products ban

Nov 6 2008 by Paul Glynn, Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News

RUNCORN MP Mike Hall has voiced his concern over the unethical treatment of seals.

The European Commission recently put forward a draft legislation proposing a ban on seal imports.

Mr Hall is now urging the Government to use its powers to press for the introduction of a strong, EU-wide ban at the earliest opportunity.

Mr Hall said: “The UK Government has a long-standing position of opposing the annual Canadian seal hunt and strongly supports an EU-wide ban on seal imports.

“I am totally opposed to the seal hunt and strongly condemn the grotesque practice of clubbing seals to death.

“I have written to the Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise as I am deeply concerned seal products are still being imported.”



N.S. minister's response to proposed EU seal product ban: kill more seals

July 24, 2008

Sealer Strikes Seal
A seal hunter clubs a harp seal on a ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in this April 2, 2005 file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's fisheries minister called for an expanded annual seal hunt Thursday, thumbing his nose at a proposed move by the European Union to ban the import of seal products amid growing complaints from overseas that the hunt is inhumane.

Ron Chisholm said he believes the hunting methods used by Canadian hunters are humane and he encouraged Ottawa to press the European Parliament to reject the proposed ban.

Under legislation introduced Wednesday, the EU's 27-member states would ban seal products from countries where hunting practices are deemed cruel - though the proposal does not offer a definition of what constitutes inhumane treatment.

Nova Scotia does not have a big stake in the annual slaughter.

The province has a yearly quota of 12,000 grey seals, but hunters have rarely taken more than a few hundred annually.

The bulk of the hunting takes place off the north coast of Newfoundland, where about 200,000 harp seals were taken last year.

Still, Chisholm said Nova Scotian fishermen should be allowed to kill more seals because the grey seal population is growing too fast and they are eating too many fish.

"I know the fishermen feel that a quota of around 20,000 or 25,000 quota per year would probably level out the seal population over a certain period of time," said Chisholm.

Chisholm said the grey seal population had exploded in recent years, and he'd like to see the hunt expanded to areas like Sable Island, where the bulk of the 300,000-strong herd can be found.

Although Chisholm couldn't point to any scientific studies that point to hungry seals as the major cause of the disappearance of groundfish stocks, he said fisherman are convinced seals are the culprits.

"You go to any association...that are fish-related and they will tell you the overpopulation of seals has a lot to do with the recovery of the ground fishery stocks, especially in eastern Nova Scotia."

Last February, Chisholm authorized a special, limited grey seal hunt for Hay Island, a provincially protected wilderness area off Cape Breton.

The province set a quota of 2,500 animals with the blessing of the federal Fisheries Department. But the hunt ended early with about 1,250 grey seals harvested.

Nonetheless, the limited hunt drew the ire of animal welfare groups.

Rebecca Aldworth, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States, said Chisholm's logic is meant to mislead the public into thinking the grey seal herd is too big.

She said that as recent as 1949, grey seals had been considered extinct in Atlantic Canada due to commercial overhunting.

"This is a population that has been in a recovery from such a low that people actually thought they were gone," said Aldworth.

Aldworth, who witnessed the spring hunt and called it "one of the most inhumane I've ever seen," said her organization would continue to press for a judicial review of the decision to allow the hunt in a protected area.

"We're still in the research and putting together our case stage, but we hope to get this moving fairly quickly."

She said the fear remains that the province will simply remove Hay Island's protected status to allow the hunt to resume next year.

Meanwhile, an opposition critic said he wanted to see scientific evidence proving that an expanded grey seal hunt is necessary.

"I can tell you from the people I represent, there is strong support for a humane seal harvest," said New Democrat Sterling Belliveau, who pointed out that all three of the province's main parties supported the Hay Island hunt in the legislature.

But Belliveau maintained the economic problems besetting areas such as the one he represents in rural Shelburne County, are more complex.

He said the province must gain more control from Ottawa to counter fisheries management decisions that are "killing our communities."

"Just to isolate and say it's mainly because of the seal population is incorrect, there are other components," he said.



Feds to Stand Up for Seal Hunt; Hearn

July 24, 2008

The Federal Fisheries Minister says the proposed ban of seal products by the European Union should not apply to Canada...and an official with the EU seems to agree. The EU has proposed an import ban on products derived from seals it deems are 'inhumanely' killed. Loyola Hearn says that is something the Canadian hunt is not. Hearn says international veterinarians have visited the hunt and deemed it humane. He says many of the things listed as needing to be done have already been completed by the sealers.

Dorian Prince, who is the European Commission's Ambassador to Canada, says he has confidence that Canada will be able to prove its hunt is humane.

Canadian Fur Institute spokesperson Rob Cahill says the proposal needs more clarity, and is calling on Ottawa to mount a strong defence of the industry if the legislation is intended to harm the hunt.

The federal government's position remains that any ban on a humanely conducted hunt is without cause. Hearn says government will continue its efforts to stand up for sealers to protect the sealing industry and markets. Hearn is ticked off that other countries are interfering with a legitimate industry. He says creating legislation in reaction to a hand full of animals rights activists is a slippery slope.

Meantime, the European Union's plan is being welcomed by animal rights groups...including the IFAW. Sheryl Fink of the International Fund for Animal Welfare says the proposed legislation is a strong step towards having the Canadian seal hunt ended once and for all.



Ottawa must stand up to EU, minister says
Seal product ban
Ottawa wasting time negotiating: Taylor

RICHARD DOOLEY, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, July 24

Newfoundland Fisheries Minister Trevor Taylor is angry the federal government isn't reacting more forcefully to a proposed European ban on seal products that could have devastating consequences on thousands of people who depend on the annual hunt to augment their income.

The proposal stops short of calling for a total ban. Instead, the EU's executive body proposes products from the 900,000 seals hunted each year should be accepted in the EU only with guarantees that the seal had been killed as humanely as possible.

Reacting to the news - a move that could take the European Parliament months to pass - Taylor said the federal government is wasting time trying to negotiate.

Harp Seal Pup Nuzzles Mother
Puppy love: An adult seal touches noses with its pup in ice floes off Prince Edward Island.

Taylor is calling for Ottawa to commence trade action through the World Trade Organization should the European legislation be adopted. "It's time for the rubber to hit the road."

Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn issued a statement saying Ottawa supports Canada's sealing industry and discussions will soon start with the Europeans to map out exemptions to the proposed legislation.

"Once again, we would like to caution European decision-makers: Adopting broad regulations to ban products from a responsible, sustainable and well-regulated hunt is a slippery slope. To bow to misinformation and emotional rhetoric in restricting the trade of humanely harvested animals would set a dangerous precedent for all wild hunts," Hearn said.

Touring Europe to make Canada's case for the seal hunt, Canadian fisheries ambassador Loyola Sullivan said he expected a "very lengthy process" to follow yesterday's announcement - one that could include a visit by EU parliamentarians to Canada this fall - before a ban comes into effect.

Animal rights groups applauded Europe's move but say it falls short since it allows exemptions for products obtained from hunts that can show seals did not suffer unnecessarily.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008



Brussels plans to ban seal trading

By Nikki Tait in Brussels

Published: July 24 2008 06:20 | Last updated: July 24 2008 06:20

Brussels on Wednesday proposed to outlaw trading in seal products which breach animal welfare standards. The move brought cheers from animal rights campaigners but risks triggering tensions with Canada.

The European Commission’s proposal would ban the import into the EU of products that came from seals that had been killed in an unnecessarily painful way. A similar ban would also be placed on the transiting of such products through the European bloc and on exports from the EU.
Trade in seal products would only be allowed if guarantees could be provided that the animals were hunted in a way that met “high animal welfare standards” and “that the animals did not suffer unnecessarily”.

“Seal products coming from countries which practice cruel hunting methods must not be allowed to enter the EU,” said EU enviroment commissioner Stavros Dimas on Wednesday.

“The EU is committed to upholding high standards of animal welfare.”

The commission said that scientists at the European Food Safety Authority believed that seals could be killed rapidly and efficiently, but that effective killing does not always take place in practice. There have been concerns, for example, that seals are sometimes struck and then lost, resulting in suffering, and also that skinning may take place while animals remain concious.

On Wednesday night, Loyola Hearn, Canadian fisheries minister, said the country would be “reviewing how the proposed regulations and any exemptions would apply to Canada”.

“Canada expects the EU to quickly begin discussions on the conditions for exemption from the draft regulations so that any any trade restriction would have no impact on market access for products from Canada’s humane regulated and responsible hunt”, he said. “We will continue to stand up for sealers to protect the Canadian sealing industry and our markets”.

On Wednesday, EU officials said a certification scheme would be established in countries where seal-hunting continued. This might also be accompanied by a labelling system to ensure that seal products that were traded were clearly identified as coming from countries meeting strict conditions.

The commission’s move was welcomed by animal rights campaigners, but many called for a more comprehensive ban. “European citizens demand a total ban on seal product trade. It is essential that the EU ends its trade in all products derived from commercial seal hunts,” said Mark Glover, at the Humane Society International.

“The people of Europe and the European Parliament will accept nothing less than a total ban,” said Neil Parish, a UK Conservative MEP who is president of the Euopean Parliament’s animal welfare group.

However, the move may trigger problems with Canada which exports over C$5m-worth of seal products to the EU annually. It has already said that public pressure to curtail the seal product trade in Europe has been driven by misinformation from anti-sealing organisations and claimed that its own hunts are humane and sustainable.

Canada also lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organisation over Dutch and Belgian bans on seal products last year.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008


Seal hunt reeling from EU proposed ban

The Canadian Press

Last updated at 11:10 PM on 23/07/08

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The future of Canada’s commercial harp seal hunt, a centuries-old industry and way of life for several thousand East Coast fishermen, was thrown into question Wednesday after the European Union proposed a partial ban of seal products.

Countries that “practice cruel hunting methods” would not be allowed to send seal products to the 27-nation bloc under legislation proposed by EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

“The images of seal hunting that circulate around the globe every year are a reminder of the oftentimes gruesome practices used to kill seals,” Dimas told a news conference in Brussels.

“European citizens find this practice is repugnant and in contradiction to our standards of animal welfare.”

The proposed ban needs the support of the EU’s 27 governments and the European Parliament before it can take effect.
Dimas’s move comes after intense pressure from animal welfare organizations, and despite lobbying efforts from the Canadian and Newfoundland and Labrador governments.

Jack Troake, who has hunted seals off the coast of Twillingate, N.L., since 1951, said he was not surprised by the move, but was disappointed nonetheless.

“All of this gallivanting around back and forth from Canada to Europe, discussing and debating this stuff, that never accomplished anything,” Troake said.

“It will be interesting to see now if this is the final end, to see what kind of a stand that Ottawa takes on our behalf, which I’m pretty well sure won’t be very harsh.”

A spokesman for federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn said the minister was in transit and unavailable for comment.
Animal welfare groups reacted with cautious optimism.

“European politicians are doing for Canadians what our own politicians will not — that is, listen to the majority opposition to this cruel, unsustainable and unnecessary hunt,” said Sheryl Fink, an Ontario-based researcher with the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Animal rights activists have called for the end to Canada’s commercial seal hunt, the largest marine mammal slaughter in the world, for several decades.

Seal hunters in Atlantic Canada say the hunt is humane, sustainable and an important part of their annual income, particularly in remote coastal communities where there is little else to do in the winter.

“We do it because it’s part of our culture and we try to survive on this rock,” Troake said.

The ban, if passed, would shut down critical shipment points for the sealing industry, including Holland and Germany.
Canada’s largest markets for seal products, such as Russia, China and Norway, are outside the EU. But some in the sealing industry fear an EU ban would curb the demand for sealskins from the fashion industry and disrupt shipping routes.

The seal hunt’s roots run deep in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the seal was once second only to cod as the most economically valuable species.


EU proposes import ban on seal products to protest inhumane hunt

By CONSTANT BRAND | Associated Press Writer
7:24 AM EDT, July 23, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The European Union proposed an import ban Wednesday on products derived from seals that are killed in a cruel way, a move that could hurt the annual seal hunt in Canada — the largest in the world.

Animal rights groups and lawmakers have called for an EU crackdown against seal hunts worldwide, prompting wrangling at EU headquarters over how far the European Commission should go.

The plan announced Wednesday covers hunts worldwide, but especially focuses on Canada because of claims by anti-hunt campaigners that it is the cruelest. Canadian seal hunters use spiked clubs and rifles to kill seals.

"Seal products coming from countries which practice cruel hunting methods must not be allowed to enter the EU," EU environmental commissioner Stavros Dimas told reporters. "The EU is committed to upholding high standards of animal welfare."

Canada has threatened to take trade action against the EU if it imposes a ban, claiming a ban would decimate isolated east coast communities that are heavily dependent on the annual hunt.

The EU proposals says the trade in seal products would be allowed from countries that can offer guarantees their hunting techniques are "consistent with high animal-welfare standards" are used and the animals are killed swiftly without undue suffering.

Special exemptions will also be allowed for Canada's Arctic Inuit community.

The ban recommends a certificate and labels be provided by countries exporting seal products making clear seal products they trade meet strict EU conditions.

A ban would need the backing of the EU's 27 governments and the European Parliament before it could take effect.

Canada's East Coast seal hunt is the largest of its kind in the world, with an average annual kill of about 300,000 harp seals. The Canadian slaughter of some 335,000 seals in 2006 brought in around $25 million.

Several EU nations also conduct seal hunts, including Finland, Sweden and Britain.

The largest markets are in Norway, China and Russia, however one-third of the trade in seal pelts, meat, and oils passes through the EU market, Dimas said.



New EU Rules On Seal Fur Trade

12:19pm UK, Wednesday July 23, 2008

A leading animal welfare group fears new European measures to manage the seal fur trade will not go far enough.

The European Commission has announced a ban on the sale of seal fur obtained using means that cause unnecessary suffering to the animal.

The new proposals are thought to endorse techniques where the animal is unconscious or adequately stunned before it is killed.

Sky News correspondent Ian Woods, who visited a seal hunt in Canada, said: "The devil is in the detail. The EU Commissioner for environment is saying that they will ban all seal products but if hunters or governments can prove that their hunt is carried out in humane conditions and that the animals themselves do not suffer, then they will allow the products into the country.

Whitecoat Harp Seal Pup
Sky News witnessed a Canadian seal hunt in March 2008

"A quarter of a million seals are killed each year - it is impossible check each kill. There is absolutely no way of checking it is carried out.

"What they have introduced effectively is a partial ban which the Canadian government will try to exploit."

Rosa Argent, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told Sky News Online: "Under a commercial hunt there's no humane way of killing."

The European ruling is likely to have the greatest impact in Canada - the world’s largest exporter of seal fur.

Canadian hunters are currently allowed to kill 275,000 each year from the country's existing six million seal population, but tighter European legislation could hit the trade.

In 1983, the European Union outlawed trade in products from highly sought-after white-furred newborn harp seals, resulting in an increase in the hunting of older seal pups.

Sir Paul McCartney published an appeal in January saying: "A European Union ban on all seal product trade would force nations where seal hunting has taken place to invest in real alternatives - jobs that will provide safe and sustainable futures."

Sky News visited Canada in March to report on the start of the hunting season.



Canada rejects Brussels ban on its seal skins

by Staff Writers
Ottawa (AFP) July 10, 2008

Canada's prime minister on Thursday warned the European Commission president not to prohibit Canadian seal skins, arguing that public pressure for a ban is based on misinformation from activists.

Harp Seal Pup
Harp seal pup. (c) Terra Daily

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, according to a statement, "that it is imperative for European Union member nations to consider their next steps carefully as they discuss any measure that would restrict or exclude the sale of seal products within their borders."

The two leaders met on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Japan.

Harper said Canada's hunt is "humane, sustainable and regulated," and added "public pressure within the European Union to curb the sale of seal products is based on misinformation from anti-sealing organizations and extremist groups."

Each year, anti-sealing activists clash with sealers and Canadian fisheries officials on Canada's Atlantic coast, denouncing the hunt as cruel.

Protestors have called for a complete halt to all trade in seal furs, but World Trade Organization rules would make such a step impossible, a European source said.

The commission is expected to make a decision whether to ban the importation of furs made from the skins of young seals hunted in Canada when it meets on July 23.

It will then look to the EU's 27 member states to approve or vote down the measure.

But Harper warned: "Canada will not stand by and accept measures that fly in the face of accepted international practices for sustainability and trade and undermine trade of seal products harvested in accordance with international standards."



Europe to ban seal products

15.04.2008 - 19:08 CET | By Leigh Phillips

After weeks of speculation, Europe is to propose a ban on seal products that result from animal cruelty, the EU's environment commissioner has said.

"We will propose a ban of seal fur imports if (a country) can't prove they were obtained in a humane way," Stavros Dimas told the Reuters news agency on Saturday (12 April) at an informal meeting of EU environment ministers in Brdo, Slovenia.

The commission's environment spokesperson confirmed to the EUobserver the commissioner's intentions. The ban would apply not just to seal pelts but all goods derived from seals, including meat, vitamins and other products.

In recent weeks, articles have appeared in the press suggesting that the EU was considering a seal product ban, but until now, Brussels has strongly denied that a ban was to be imposed, stressing that such a move was only one of a number of possible actions Europe could take.

Mr Dimas did not give a timetable for the introduction of such a proposal, saying only: "It will take some time."

"I'm very much concerned at the way the hunt is conducted," he said, referring to a report from the European Food Safety Authority published last December, which concluded: "Many seals can be, and are, killed rapidly and effectively. (But) it is not always carried out effectively and this will lead to seals feeling the skinning."

EU member states Belgium and the Netherlands introduced similar bans last year, prompting Canada, where some 275,000 harp seals are killed every year during the annual hunting season, to launch a trade dispute with the EU as a whole.

Meanwhile, one of the leading international campaigners against the seal hunt, Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose vessel was seized on Saturday (12 April) by an elite marine squad from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police while monitoring the hunt, claimed that his team has captured footage of seals screaming while being skinned alive – evidence he says will be used to help convince European institutions to ban seal products.

"We haven't seen any evidence of a humane hunt here," Mr Watson said. "We're presenting this evidence to the European Parliament. They are going to pass a bill to ban seal products. That will end the Canadian seal hunt."

Two weeks ago, a delegation from Canada including an Inuit leader, fishermen from Newfoundland and Quebec and other regional officials visited Brussels in an attempt to convince Europe not to ban seal products.

They said the hunt was at least as humane as any other form of hunting, and that it was not only a part of the Inuit lifestyle traditionally but to this day, the indigenous population depends on the hunt for meat and their livelihood.

Commissioner Dimas said that he would make sure that the ban would not affect the traditional Inuit hunt.

At the time of the visit, the officials handed out a transcript of a recent report on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio, the Canadian public broadcaster, that had uncovered an interview from the late 1970s of Mr Watson, in which he talked about how easy it is to raise money on the back of the seal hunt.

"Of all the animals in the world or any environmental problem in the world, the harp seal is the easiest issue to raise funds on," said Mr Watson.

"They're beautiful and because of that, coupled with the horror of a sealer hitting them over the head with a club, it's an image that just goes right to the heart of animal lovers," he continued.



Sealers appeal to EU not to ban seal products


The Associated Press

April 2, 2008 at 10:37 AM EDT

BRUSSELS — Canadian sealers and politicians appealed Wednesday to the European Union not to ban the sale of products derived from seals.

The appeal comes amid renewed charges that Canada's annual seal hunt off its eastern and northern coast lines is cruel and inhumane.

The EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas is considering a ban on all seal products amid increased pressure on him to take action by animal rights groups this year.

Longuepie - Sealer
Seal hunter Denis Longuepie of Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que., gestures during a press conference at the Canadian embassy in Brussels on Wednesday. (Virginia Mayo/The Associated Press)

EU officials say he is expected to make his recommendations before summer.

Special Ambassador Loyola Sullivan, who was leading a week-long Canadian trip to lobby officials in several European capitals, said a ban could violate world trade rules.

And Mr. Sullivan is hinting at possible retaliatory trade action by Canada in response to any ban on seal products such as blubber, meat or pelts.

“I believe strongly that there shouldn't be restrictions on access to markets,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters. “The European Commission has an obligation to live up to their [trade] commitments. We hope they exercise that right.”

The Canadian government takes threats of a ban “very seriously” and will defend “the legitimate sustainable, humane, economic activity for some of the most disadvantaged people in our country,” he said.

The controversial hunt resurfaced at the European Parliament and EU headquarters as this year's hunt began last week in the Gulf of St. Lawrence – the first stage in the largest such hunt in the world.

Similar hunts also are carried out in Greenland, Norway, Russia, Namibia and EU-member Finland, but none has been scrutinized by European activists as much as Canada's. That inconsistency has frustrated Canadian officials.

The European Parliament called last year on the EU to ban the import of seal fur.

This year's hunt will be conducted under new rules intended to appease European concerns, with extra steps added to make sure the animals are dead before they are skinned – a recommendation made in an EU report released in December. That report was inconclusive on recommending a full EU ban.

Canadian authorities have set this year's total allowable catch at 275,000 seals, up from 270,000 last year. Seventy per cent of the seals will be taken in an area off Newfoundland's north coast known as the Front, while 30 per cent will be taken in the Gulf of St. Lawrence – the first stage of the hunt.

Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik said a ban would damage already fragile isolated communities that depend on the annual hunt for income and food.

He also urged the 27-country EU not to apply a double standard on the hunt, citing examples of how animals are poorly treated and used after slaughter in Europe.

“I'm sometimes troubled by some countries that try to pretend that our harvest is somehow unacceptable,” Mr. Okalik said. “At least in our case we are trying to use every part of the animal. ... Please look in the mirror and see what you are doing yourselves.”

Denis Longuepie and Mark Small, who hunt for seals off the coasts of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, said the way they kill seals with high-powered rifles as opposed to hakapiks – heavy clubs – is humane.

“We are very professional, we take courses, we do what we have to do,” said Mr. Longuepie, from Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que.

Mr. Sullivan said Canada is seemingly fighting an uphill media war against campaigns by animal-welfare groups that often try to sway public opinion on the issue by showing photographs or film footage of cute and cuddly seal pups, and of dead and bloodied seals on ice flows.

“We continue to see ... images of white-coat seals (the killing of which has) been illegal since 1987,” he said. “They sensationalize, they take steps beyond manipulation.”

Environmental and animal-rights groups have already slammed Canadian officials for not allowing them better access to this year's start of the hunt. They insist the mass kill is devastating the harp seal population.



EU officials considering 'measures' to protest Canadian seal-hunt

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Union is considering measures against Canada to protest its annual seal hunt set to start later this week off its Atlantic coast, EU officials said Wednesday.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas is "looking into the nature of the inhumane killing of seals," and is drafting a text to be presented before June, EU spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich told reporters.

She would not say if the measures could include an import ban on products derived from Canadian seals, or other economic or political sanctions.

Animal rights campaigners and lawmakers are putting increasing pressure on the EU's executive office to take a tougher stand against the annual hunt, which has been criticized as cruel.

Seal hunts also are carried out in Greenland, Norway, Russia, Namibia and EU-member Finland, but none has been scrutinized by European activists as much as Canada's — which has frustrated Canadian officials.

Animal rights groups often try to sway European opinion on the issue by showing photographs or film footage of cute and cuddly seal pups, and of dead and bloodied seals on ice flows.

British EU lawmaker Neil Parish appealed to the Commission to impose a van on seal fur imports from Canada.

"As the culling season gets under way, the time has come for the Commission to take action," said Parish, who chairs a European Parliament animal welfare panel.

"The slaughter of seals in Canada, including seals that are just a few weeks old, is barbaric and the EU should not condone it. The methods used, cudgeling with a 'hakapik' or shooting, have too often not killed the seal outright, and I am not satisfied with Canadian assertions that seals are not still being skinned alive."

The European Parliament last year called on the EU to impose a fur import ban.

However, this year's Canadian hunt will be conducted under new rules meant to appease European concerns, with extra steps added to make sure the animals are dead before they are skinned — a recommendation made in an EU report released in December. That report was inconclusive on recommending a full EU ban.

Canadian authorities have set this year's total allowable catch at 275,000 seals, up from 270,000 last year. Seventy percent of the seals will be taken in an area off Newfoundland's north coast known as the Front, while 30 percent will be taken in the Gulf of St. Lawrence — the first stage of the hunt.

The EU already has in place a 1983 ban on the import of white pelts taken from baby seals, and a total ban could spell disaster for Canadian hunters and aboriginal peoples.

Several EU nations, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, already have their own bans on all seal products. The United States has banned Canadian seal products since 1972.

Animal rights groups say Canada's seal hunt is difficult to monitor, ravages the seal population and does not provide a lot of money for sealers.

But sealers and the Canadian government have defended the hunt as sustainable, humane, well-managed and a necessary source of income for hunters. Many of them live in isolated fishing communities and deeply rely on the seal hunt because their cod fishing died out years ago.

The slaughter of some 335,000 seals in 2006 brought about US$25 million.


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