Inuit sue EU over seal ban

Inuit sue EU over seal ban

LEIGH PHILLIPS, 15.01.2010, EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Canadian and Greenlandic Inuit groups are suing the European Union over its ban on seal products, and are very confident they will win.

Canada´s Tapiriit Kanatami, the country´s national Inuit organisation, the Inuit Circumpolar council and a number of Inuit individuals filed the lawsuit with the European General Court, until this year known as the Court of First Instance, on Wednesday.

The legislation was one of the most non-partisan bills to pass through the European Parliament (Photo: Animaldefense)

In 2009, the EU banned the import of seal products. The legislation was one of the most non-partisan bills to pass through the European Parliament. Believing the issue to be massively popular amongst EU citizens ahead of elections to the chamber in June, some 550 deputies voted in favour of the ban, with just 49 opposed.

The groups will aim to prove that the seal hunt is, contrary to the European legislation´s justification, humane. The suit will also maintain that the hunt is environmentally sustainable and that seals are not endangered.

Calling the EU ban the product of a "shrill campaign" by animal rights "extremists", 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."

The EU ban includes an exemption for aboriginal hunts, but the Inuit argue that this makes little difference as the ban results in a collapse of their biggest market. Canada currently is trying to develop a Chinese market for seal products in the wake of the ban.

Ms Simon said the ban was hypocritical, given the industrialisation of European farming in recent decades and the effect that has had on food animal living and slaughterhouse conditions.

"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."

The groups are highly confident they will win the suit, suggesting that European legal experts warned against adopting the legislation.

"Despite advance warning by their own lawyers, its EU lawmakers registered no inhibitions about adopting laws that are legally defective," said Ms Simon.

The Canadian government is also currently challenging the EU seal products trade ban at the World Trade Organisation.