Brussels mulls action on “inhumane” Canadian seal killings
The European Union is contemplating action against the alleged culling of young seals by Canada, the spokeswoman for Stavros Dimas, European environmental commissioner told journalists last week.
Answering questions during the regular midday press conference, Barbara Helfferich, the spokeswoman, confirmed that Commissioner Dimas is, “looking into the matter of the inhumane killing of seals and we are preparing a text to be presented in the next few months to address this issue.” “We hope to have it before the summer,” Helfferich added.
Welcoming the expected trade sanctions move by the commission, Neil Parish, Conservative MEP and President of the European Parliament’s Animal Welfare intergroup, said: “As the culling season gets underway, the time has come for the Commission to take action. The slaughter of seals in Canada, including seals that are just a few weeks old, is barbaric and the EU should not condone it.”
While announcing the total allowable catch (TAC) and other management measure for the 2008 Atlantic seal hunt, Loyola Hearn, Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, said in early March, “The seal hunt is an economic mainstay for numerous rural communities in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the North.”
The minister stressed, “The government has taken further steps to ensure the hunt continues to be conducted in a humane manner, adopting recommendations of the Independent Veterinarians Working Group.”
Reacting to Canadian claims, MEP Parish said, “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.
“Many countries in Europe and around the world have introduced or are considering a ban on these imports, but I believe it would require the entire EU to implement a single ban to ensure the demand for seal skins dries up,” MEP added.
One reliable Canadian government source familiar with the hunt told New Europe, “Canada’s seal hunt is humane, sustainable and responsible. We are aware that the (European) Commission is looking at what steps to take regarding the seal hunt. The Government of Canada is committed to the sustainable management of its renewable resources.
“The recommendations made in the recent report by the European Food Safety Authority (published in December 2007) uphold the legitimacy and humaneness of the hunting practices and techniques that are used, regulated and enforced in Canada’s annual commercial seal hunt. Canada has also supplied information to the authors of a study commissioned by the European Commission on the socio-economic and animal welfare aspects of seal hunting.
“In addition to the existing regulatory requirements to properly strike and check for unconsciousness, a third step, that of bleeding to ensure death, will be required as a condition of licence for 2008.”
Canada’s annual culling of seals attracts the ire of international environmental campaigners and animal protection groups. With Belgium and the Netherlands already banning the import of seal-derived products while Germany and Austria are considering closing their markets too, the European Union is now toying with the idea of a ban which the industry pundits predict will devastate the seal product industry as onethird of the products head for the EU.
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