Canadian Inuit have filed a lawsuit in the European General Court to overturn EU legislation banning the import of seal products into EU countries. The lawsuit seeks annulment of Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 of the European Parliament and Council of September 16, 2009 on trade in seal products. The lawsuit comes as the annual seal hunt in the Canadian arctic is beginning, with the Canadian government authorizing hunters (including Inuit) to take up to 330,000 seals.
In adopting its seal products trade legislation, the EU held out the possibility of a partial exemption for seals hunted by Inuit. While the prospect of this exemption may have persuaded many EU Parliamentarians to vote for the ban, legislation was developed without the involvement of Canadian Inuit, and the EU continues to develop implementation measures affecting Canadian Inuit without the fair and informed participation, let alone consent, of Inuit.
The events surrounding the EU seal products trade ban have contributed to a sharp drop in seal pelt prices in markets relied upon by Inuit and in turn a reduction in the ability of Inuit to provide for their families in the challenging economic climate of their homelands. The Government of Canada is currently challenging the EU seal products trade ban under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said
“Inuit have been hunting seals and sustaining themselves for food, clothing, and trade for many generations. No objective and fair minded person can conclude that seals are under genuine conservation threat or that Inuit hunting activities are less humane than those practiced by hunting communities all over the world, including hunters in Europe. It is bitterly ironic that the EU, which seems entirely at home with promoting massive levels of agri-business and the raising and slaughtering of animals in highly industrialized conditions, seeks to preach some kind of selective elevated morality to Inuit. At best this is cultural bias, although it could be described in even harsher terms.