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EU court reinstates ban on import of seal products

The EU Court of Justice [official website] has reinstated a ban on the import of seal products, according to a ruling [judgment text, in French] released Thursday rejecting challenges by Canada's Inuit hunters and fur traders. Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 [text, PDF], which recognizes seals as "sentient beings that can experience pain, distress, fear and other forms of suffering," and bans all imports containing seal products, took effect in August, but the Inuit hunters were temporarily exempted [JURIST report]. Judge Marc Jaeger ruled this week that the ban should be fully implemented, holding that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate an imminent financial hardship resulting from the ban to warrant an application for interim relief:

Therefore, the applicants have not established the seriousness of the alleged harm, as affects each of them individually, and this assumes that their expectations relative to the impractical character of the rules of execution are founded. Consequently, the condition related to the urgency cannot be considered as fulfilled as it concerns them.
The ruling could be appealed [AFP report], but plaintiffs have not yet indicated whether they will do so.

Representatives of Canada's Inuit population sued the EU [JURIST report] in January, arguing that the hunting represented a traditional aspect of the Inuit's lifestyle. The Canadian government took action against the ban [press release] in November, initiating the World Trade Organization [official website] dispute resolution process by requesting consultations. The ban was implemented in September 2009 following extensive public pressure to end seal hunting by groups citing humanitarian considerations. More narrow European restrictions imposed in 1983 caused the industry to suffer a sharp decline. Commercial seal hunting is an economic and cultural staple for the Inuit, who contend that their methods are necessary and humane.

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