MEPs voice outrage at Canadian WTO appeal against seal ban
Senior MEPs David Martin and Arlene McCarthy have condemned the Canadian government's decision to press ahead with a legal challenge against the EU ban on the seal product trade.
The ban would involve ending the seal hunt, providing immediate compensation for sealers and investing in economic alternatives in the communities involved.
Other countries have implemented similar measures.
In 2009, Russia banned seal hunting, and last year, the customs union comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan banned trade in harp seal fur.
However, the Canadians have now decided to push ahead with a challenge at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The move was immediately condemned by MEPs who warn it could jeopardise the potentially highly lucrative Canada-EU comprehensive economic and trade agreement which is currently under discussion and could be worth billions of euros to both sides.
In June last year parliament adopted a resolution on EU-Canada trade relations threatening to block ratification of CETA if Canada fails to withdraw its WTO challenge.
More than 100 MEPs have since signed an open letter to the Canadian government saying parliament should not ratify CETA until Canada drops its challenge.
The latest criticism was led by Scottish deputy Martin, a longstanding member of the committee on international trade.
He said, "I am deeply disappointed to see this senseless WTO case forward in direct opposition to the will of Canadians and Europeans.
"This pointless attack on the democratic rights of European citizens to choose which products we place on our market is doomed to failure and a colossal waste of millions of Canadian tax dollars.
"Furthermore, while the Canadian government may want the public to believe otherwise, this WTO challenge is putting a serious strain on the ongoing Canada-EU trade negotiations."
McCarthy broadly agreed, saying, "The market for these products is disappearing.
"EU citizens do not want to buy products produced by this cruel and inhumane slaughter. The law allows the EU to place a ban on the placing of seal products on the market.
"This is not an issue for the WTO."
"Instead of wasting Canadian taxpayers' money challenging EU citizen's democratic right not to purchase these products, the Canadian government would do better to focus their energies on providing a restructuring and support programme for this declining industry.
"With the ban now picking up momentum and being extended to other countries outside of the EU they should accept the reality that there is no longer any market for these products."
Further reaction to the Canadian move came from Italian EPP MEP Cristiana Muscardini, who said, "I am dismayed to see the Canadian government proceed with this controversial WTO challenge.
"EU citizens are not supporting any trade in products of inherently inhumane activities such as commercial sealing, and we have the right to defend our legislation vigorously at WTO.
"In addition, parliament has made it clear that if Canada continues with the WTO challenge it is far less likely to ratify the Canada-EU comprehensive economic and trade agreement currently being negotiated.
"As I often underlined to the EU trade commissioner, it is time to have an animal welfare chapter inside any trade agreements with third countries," she added.
Elsewhere, Humane Society International said it also "condemned" the decision.
Joanna Swabe HSI EU director, said, "This short sighted attack by the Canadian government on the democratic sovereignty of the EU to regulate its own trade is seriously damaging Canada's relationship with the EU.
"It is time the Canadian government listened to the will of Canadians and Europeans and ended the commercial seal slaughter for good."