Canada takes seal product bans to WTO Canadian trade minister will not oppose dog & cat fur imports to avoid precedent

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2007:
GENEVA–Defying the court of world
opinion, Canadian international trade minister
David Emerson on September 26, 2007 appealed to
the World Trade Organiza-tion to try to stop
Belgium and the Netherlands from banning Atlantic
Canadian seal products.
Emerson asked the WTO to hold “formal
consultations” with the European Union on the
Belgian and Dutch actions, “which is the first
step in the organization’s dispute settlement
process,” explained James Keller of Canadian
Belgium banned seal product imports in
January 2007, allowing an exemption for Inuits
in the Far North who hunt seals by traditional
methods. The Netherlands published a similar ban
in July 2007, taking effect in September.
Both bans are symbolic, since neither
nation has recently imported seal products, but
Emerson “said Canada is worried the bans will
encourage other countries that have expressed
similar concerns, including Austria, Germany,
and Italy, to follow with their own bans,”
wrote Keller.
Dutch agriculture minister Gerda Verburg
responded that the Dutch law “fits within the
rules established by the WTO.”
European Union trade commissioner Peter
Mandelson said in a written statement that he is
“naturally disappointed by this move” on the part
of the Canadian government. Mandelson “said the
EU would defend its member states before the WTO,
while continuing to study whether a EU-wide ban
on seal products is justified,” summarized

The European Parliament in Sept-ember
2006 passed a resolution favoring an EU ban on
seal product imports. The German Parliament
passed a supporting resolution in October 2006.
British minister for trade, investment, and
foreign affairs Ian McCartney in February 2007
pledged that Britain would actively lobby for an
EU ban on seal product imports, after polls
showed that a ban is favored by up to 73% of the
British public.
The European Commission, however, has
asserted that the 1983 EU restrictions on imports
of fur from “whitecoat” seal pups “provides
adequate response” to the concerns raised by the
European Parliament.
How far the present Canadian government
will go in defense of sealing and the fur trade
was shown by Emerson’s response after the
European Commission in November 2006 adopted a
proposal to ban the import, export, and sale of
cat and dog fur throughout the European Union–as
requested by the European Parliament and Council
of Ministers.
Julia Waring of the Vancouver-based
organization Fur-Bearer Defenders wrote to
Emerson, who is the Member of Parliament
representing her district, asking Canada to
adopt a similar proposal.
“Adopting an import ban on dog and cat
fur could undermine Canada’s case against the
implementation to import bans imposed on Canadian
seal products,” Emerson replied on March 7,
Emerson put the value of Canadian fur
exports, including seal pelts, at $361 million
in Canadian dollars as of 2005. The Atlantic
Canada seal hunt generates $33 million (Canadian)
in revenues, according to government figures,
including $18 million in seal pelt exports, at
cost of $20 million in subsidies as estimated by
the Humane Society of Canada.
The seal hunt provides temporary jobs to
about 6,000 residents of Newfoundland and remote
parts of Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince
Edward Island. The three “maritime provinces” are
politically courted by all major Canadian
parties, as the swing votes whose support
usually decides the outcome of the perennial
three-way Parliament-ary power struggle among the
Liberals, whose political base is in Quebec,
the Progressive Conserv-atives, strongest in
Ontario, and the New Democrats, strongest in
the “prairie provinces.”
Emerson is a Liberal, presently the
ruling party. The seal hunt was suspended from
1984 to 1995 during a rare epoch of Progressive
Conservative strength in Quebec, beginning with
the 1984-1993 tenure of Brian Mulroney of Bai
Comeau as Prime Minister.
Wrote Fur-Bearer Defend-ers executive
director Jennifer Allen to ANIMAL PEOPLE, “We
are shocked at Emerson’s seeming willingness to
promote increased trade, whatever the cost, with
seemingly no concern whatsoever for whether
cruelty is involved, or for the ethical concerns
of Canadians.
“While other countries are increasingly
banning dog and cat fur,” Allen added, “Canada
has no laws preventing its import or sale, no
laws to require labelling of fur, and no intent
to do anything about it. New York State even
just went one step further to tighten up
labelling laws, as they are that convinced that
dog and cat fur is being shipped to North
America,” Allen pointed out. “Where will that
fur go now?”
But Emerson was buoyed in approaching the
WTO when on September 25, 2007 the Committee for
Environmental Cooperation created as part of the
North American Free Trade Agreement dismissed a
claim by the Mexican organizations Centro
Mexicano de Derecho Ambi-ental and Conservación
de Mamíferos Marinos that Canada has failed to
enforce the humane requirements of its national
Marine Mammal Regulations. The claim was
supported by the Humane Society International
division of the Humane Society of the U.S.
Namibian parallel
Canadian governmental intransigence in
defense of sealing is mirrored by the position of
the government of Namibia, whose arguments for
continuing the much smaller Namibian seal hunt
often seem copied from Canadian positions. Both
hunts are motivated in part by the demands of
fishers who can no longer make a living in
heavily overfished waters. Both the Canadian and
Namibian governments argue that sealing is
necessary to control growing seal populations,
even as other evidence suggests that global
warming is markedly reducing seal breeding
“Namibia is now in violation of every
conservation principle of sustainable utilization
imaginable,” Seal Alert founder Francois Hugo
wrote on August 15, 2007 to Namibian prime
minister Nanhas Angula and fisheries minister
Moses Maurihungirire.
Hugo cited the United Nations Food and
Agricultural Org-anization Code of Conduct for
Responsible Fisheries, the Namib-ian
constitution, the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature position on “sustainable
utilization of seals,” and the listing criteria
used by the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species.
Hugo pointed out that Namibia allows
sealers to kill more than two-thirds of the seals
born at Cape Cross each year, more than twice
the estimated “sustainable yield,” which in turn
was based on a population model that
underestimated pup mortality before the start of
the sealing season by about half.
In consequence, the 2006 sealing quota
for Cape Cross, Hugo argued, was nearly twice
the number of seal pups who were alive there.
Comparing aerial photos taken on August 20, 2005
and August 10, 2007, Hugo concluded that, “The
entire seal colony claimed to be largest in
southern Africa is no more. Less than 30 days
into the 139-day 2007 sealing season, Namibia’s
largest mainland seal colony is deserted, and
for all intents and purposes extinct.”

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