© The Canadian Press
A young harp seal rests on the ice floes during the annual East Coast seal hunt in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence around Quebec's Iles de la Madeleine in this file photo.
CORNER BROOK One of the most outspoken political supporters of the seal hunt is disappointed at what he characterized as Mondayâs short-sighted decision by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The organization ruled that, while the European Union ban on imported seal products does undermine fair trade, those restrictions can be justified on âpublic moral concernsâ for animal welfare.
It was being viewed as a partial victory for advocates both for and against Canadaâs commercial seal hunt. Chris Mitchelmore, the independent MHA representing the Straits-White Bay North, was not in a celebratory mood following the ruling Monday.
âThis is terrible news for trying to look at entering into the European market when it comes to seal products,â he said. âI donât think the European Union is recognizing the importance seals play in Newfoundland and Labradorâs development, and even their own industrial revolution.
âI am a strong supporter of the seal hunt, and seals are harvested in Canada in a very human, environmentally-friendly and sustainable way. They are a valuable resource that are important to many rural communities.â
The report from a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel affects sealers across Atlantic Canada and Inuit communities who argue the ban discriminates against Canadian seal products. Canada and Norway challenged the unionâs ban, stating it unjustly blocked products resulting from the commercial hunt.
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The Canadian government argues the commercial hunts are humane and sustainable, while critics â such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare â applauded Mondayâs ruling. Word out of Ottawa Monday was Canada would appeal the ruling. It has 60 days to do so.
Mitchelmore said an appeal is the right action from this country.
âIâalso hope other people â local people, politicians of all stripes â will come out and draft letters, speak out and be supporters of the Canadian seal hunt.
âIt is something I have been an advocate for. I always have been and I always will be. We all have our work to do, and I am prepared to help out.â
The EU ban exempts seal products resulting from Inuit or other aboriginal hunts, along with those carried out solely to manage ocean resources.
A press release from the International Fund for Animal Welfare stated the World Trade Organization concluded animal welfare is a globally recognized issue and a valuable public moral concern.
âThe report from the WTO panel is a victory for seals, animal welfare and Europeans,ââSonja Van Tichelen, the organizationsâs European Union regional director, stated.
âEU leaders can be proud that they have simultaneously protected seals, represented the needs of their citizens and respected EU obligations under the WTO ââthat is not a simple task.â