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EU court upholds ban on seal products

The EU Court of Justice [official website] on Thursday upheld [judgment] the EU's three-year ban on seal products. 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 2010, exempting [JURIST report] only Inuit hunters. Canada's Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami [official website] brought the case alleging concerns that such bans may dry up any existing market for seal products, further hurting the industry. The court held that the ban assists in "harmonizing market conditions within the Union" without adversely affecting "the fundamental economic and social interests of Inuit communities engaged in the hunting of seals as a means to ensure their subsistence."

The EU Court of Justice rejected initial challenges on the ban by Canada's Inuit hunters and fur traders in October 2010. Representatives of Canada's Inuit population sued the EU [JURIST report] in January 2010, arguing that the hunting represented a traditional aspect of the Inuit's lifestyle. The Canadian government took action against the ban [press release] the previous year, 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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