Inuit leaders blast EU seal ban as appeal underway in Geneva

Inuit hunters point to seal holes near the Arctic Canadian community of Clyde River, Nunavut. (Eilís Quinn / Eye on the Arctic)
Inuit hunters point to seal holes near the Arctic Canadian community of Clyde River, Nunavut. (Eilís Quinn / Eye on the Arctic)
Canadian Inuit leaders blasted the ongoing effect of the European Union Seal ban on Arctic peoples on Monday, as an appeal got underway at the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

“For 40 years now we have seen the spread of false information and propaganda by animal rights groups to gain political and public support in Europe and end hunting and trade of seal,” Terry Audla, president of Canada’s national Inuit organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said in a news release on Monday.

“The whitecoat seal pup, as one example, is still being used in propaganda campaigns to this day, although it has not been a part of any product trade for the past 30 years,” he said.

“Such a comprehensive ban is destructive because it paints a black mark and stigmatizes products and the people who harvest and trade these products. We are therefore not immune from this bias, and we are not immune from the negative impacts this has on our communities, on our culture, and on our wellbeing.”

However, animal rights activists disagree that the ban should be overturned.

“There are equally compelling arguments that Europeans find this morally objectionable and don’t want those products on their market,” Rebecca Aldworth, head of the Canadian wing of Humane Society International, said in an interview The Canadian Press newswire service.

The European Parliament passed the bill to ban the importation of seal products in 2009 after a campaign by animal welfare activists against the commercial seal hunt.

Though indigenous people in the Arctic are exempt from the ban, the law has effectively killed the market for seal products.

This has had a major economic and social impact for Inuit, Saami and other Arctic indigenous communities.

The World Trade Organization ruled in November 2013 that while the ban did undermine fair trade, it could be justified moral grounds for animal welfare.

Canada and Norway are currently appealing the WTO ruling.

Hearings will last until March 19. A ruling is expected in April.

-with files from The Canadian Press

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related Links:

Canada: (VIDEO) Seal Ban: The Inuit Impact, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: What the EU seal ban has meant for Inuit communities in the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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