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Page last updated at 12:07 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 13:07 UK

EU seeks to halt cruelty to seals

Seal (file pic)
Some 15 species of seals are hunted worldwide

The European Commission has proposed that the EU ban all trade in seal products from countries that fail to meet high animal welfare standards.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called for a ban on seal products obtained through "cruel hunting methods", which he called "repugnant".

Canada warned the EU not to "bow to misinformation and emotional rhetoric".

Canada kills about 300,000 seals annually off its east coast. It is the biggest such hunt in the world.

In the EU, seal-hunting is practised in Sweden, Finland, the Danish territory of Greenland and in the UK.

Mr Dimas said he hoped the ban would take effect before Canada's 2009 hunting season. He said his office received thousands of demands for a ban - mostly from campaigners in the UK, the US and Canada.

Anti-hunt campaigners say some seals are skinned while still conscious. Hunters typically shoot the seals with rifles or bludgeon them to death with spiked clubs. The animals' pelts, fat and meat are traded.

Canada's Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn insisted on Wednesday that Canada has "a humanely conducted hunt".

The EU ban - not yet approved by the European Parliament and EU ministers - would not apply to Canada's Arctic Inuit community.

Existing bans

The EU barred the import of white pelts taken from baby seals in 1983.

Belgium and the Netherlands have already banned seal products and the United States has banned Canadian seal products since 1972.

The Commission says it is addressing concerns expressed by the European Parliament and the general public "that seals are being killed and skinned using practices that unnecessarily inflict pain and suffering".

It says European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientific opinion "indicates that seals can be killed rapidly and effectively by a number of methods without causing avoidable pain, distress and suffering, but evidence shows that effective killing does not always happen in practice".

Trade in seal products would be allowed only where they came with guarantees that the animals did not suffer unnecessarily.

A certification scheme would be established including, if necessary, a distinctive label or mark, showing that a seal-trading country met strict conditions.


SEE ALSO
Man arrested filming seal killing
14 Oct 07 |  Nottinghamshire
Hunters 'blockade' seal activists
13 Apr 06 |  Americas
Canada seal cull gets under way
26 Mar 06 |  Americas

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