An EU ban on the sale of seal products has today been strengthened, despite tough opposition from hunters.
A ban on the commercial sale of seal products was introduced in 2009 following overwhelming public and political outrage. The ban had an immediate impact, with prices for seal fur crashing in Canada, the site of the world's largest seal kill.
So far more than two million seals have been saved from being clubbed to death or shot and left to bleed to death.
The EU Seal Regulation has been challenged by Canada and Norway but twice upheld by World Trade Organisation (WTO) rulings. However, in order to be fully WTO compliant, the Marine Resource Management (MRM) hunts had to be removed from the current legislation.
Despite heavy lobbying by hunters, the European Parliament's Internal Market committee (IMCO) today voted against reintroducing the MRM exception.
Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler, vice-chair of the committee, welcomed the outcome of the vote:
"This ban saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of seals every year. It does not stop the Inuit communities hunting for the purpose of self-sustainment, nor does it stop Member States from allowing seals to be killed, but rather it restricts the sale of the products of these kills for commercial purposes.
"We have all seen the violent images of seals being clubbed to death and I am pleased we have today taken action to remove any commercial incentive to kill these animals. No legal loopholes to the ban can exist."
Fellow Scottish MEP, David Martin, Socialist Group coordinator for International Trade, added:
"It is a great victory that the WTO has confirmed the EU seal ban is legitimate. European citizens were clear the commercial hunt is cruel and there is no place for the skins of slaughtered baby seals on the European market.
"It is important we make the necessary technical adaptions to bring this legislation fully in line with WTO requirements. Today's vote has confirmed the EU must stand fully behind a trade policy that reflects our values."