By Suzanne Goldenberg
The World Trade Organisation has upheld a European Union ban on imported seal products, finding it addressed "public moral concerns" about the controversial hunt.
The WTO ruling was claimed as a victory by conservationists and animal welfare activists who have been campaigning for years against such hunts in Canada and Norway.
Monday's ruling did find some flaws in the 2010 ban, but found that: "It fulfils the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent, and no alternative measure was demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution to the fulfilment of the objective."
However, the trade organisation said the exceptions granted under the EU ban were not "even-handed", and would have to be revised.
The EU had exempted seal products resulting from Inuit or other aboriginal hunts, as well as from hunts conducted to protect fishing stocks.
"The report from WTO panel is a victory for seals, animal welfare and Europeans," Sonja Van Tichelen, EU regional director for the International Federation for Animal Welfare, said in a statement.
Canadian Inuit leaders, speaking to CBC radio ahead of the decision, argued that the ban was discriminatory.
"They're basing it on public morals and, when you do that, you're in danger of all the other industries being banned in the same way. I mean, who's to say what's more cruel? Industrialised agriculture? The poultry, pork and beef industry? Who draws the line?" said Terry Audla, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents about 55,000 people.
With the EU embargo in place, some 34 countries now ban the trade in seal products. The US, Mexico, Russia and Taiwan also ban imported seal products. More....