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Discuss: EU BLUDGEONS CANADIAN SEALERS... March 07, 2009 2:23 PM

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 March 11, 2009 9:56 AM

The European Parliament has set the scene for a showdown with other European institutions and with the rest of the world by approving a strict import and trading ban on seals products after a parliamentary committee agreed to limit the exemptions to a ban proposed by the European Commission. The lawmakers ignored the position of their rapporteur, Diana Wallis of the United Kingdom, who had proposed a form of labeling rather than an outright ban. Seal derivatives are found in a variety of products, including bags, motorcyclists’ gloves and Omega 3 fatty acid supplements. In July, 2008, the European Commission proposed an EU-wide import ban only on products derived from seals that have been killed and skinned in cruel ways, for instance by being clubbed to death. But lawmakers voted in favour of a complete ban and rejected granting exceptions to EU countries, arguing that it “would be impossible in practice to monitor compliance with the conditions under which a derogation would be granted.” At the same time, the committee did agree to relax the rules on seals hunted by Inuit indigenous peoples living in Greenland, Canada, Russia and the United States. The vote was welcomed by Socialist lawmakers but criticised by Conservatives amid concerns that a complete ban might violate international trade rules. The European Parliament will now have to work on a compromise with the European Commission and with national governments. After the vote, Green MEPs Caroline Lucas of the UK and Carl Schlyter of Sweden said: “We welcome this decision of the Parliament’s Internal Market Committee, which has upheld the importance of animal protection by endorsing a Europe-wide ban on trade in seal products. This step was long overdue: in some EU countries the sale of seal furs has already been prohibited for several years. “There is plenty of evidence that an EU ban on the import of seal products will be critical in stopping the brutality of the seal hunts. Successive petitions and initiatives have repeatedly shown that this issue is an important one for many citizens.” They noted that on Sept. 16, 2006 a majority of MEPS signed a declaration calling for a ban on the import of seal products in the EU. The legislation will now be voted on in the April plenary session. “The Greens will do everything in our power to ensure the position of the Internal Market Committee is not watered down, and that a trade and import ban is rapidly implemented,” Lucas and Schlyter said. The move came as the fur industry Monday attacked a planned trip to Canada by Hong Kong singer-actress Karen Mok to campaign against seal culls, saying she was being “manipulated” by animal rights groups. Mok went to Canada to shoot a mini-documentary about seal culls, just weeks ahead of an annual hunt when more than 300,000 seals will be killed for their skins. The trip was part of a global campaign to stop the trade in seal fur. A spokesman for the fur industry branded the trip “irrelevant” to Hong Kong saying it and the campaign were simply money-spinning exercises by animal rights groups to “fill their coffers.” Timothy Everest, spokesman of the Hong Kong Fur Federation, said he did not know any manufacturer in Hong Kong that used seal in its collections. He said the cull was carried under the control of the Canadian government to manage the population of seals which stood at a healthy 6.5 to seven million but would exhaust the supply of the world’s fish if left to multiply. Everest accused the animal right groups of manipulating Mok and the public by using “horrendous images” showing baby seals being clubbed to death on the ice, when the killing of so-called “whitecoat” baby seals had been banned since the 1980s. “It’s an emotive image that enables these animal right groups to raise donations to fill their coffers,” said Everest, who is himself a fur trader. “They flew in Paul McCartney to the ice throes with his now ex-wife. That stunt made them 650,000 US dollars. But it didn’t save a single seal because the Canadian government have to control the seals otherwise the balance of nature goes out of kilter,” he said. “The fur trade is a legitimate trade and first and foremost our concern is animal welfare,” he said. Rebecca Aldworth of HSI, a group which wants a ban on the seal hunting, denied the campaign was a money-spinning exercise saying all donations went to fund the campaign. “Sealers hunt seals for one reason only - money. History shows this clearly. When the prices paid for seal skins are low, kill levels in Canada decline accordingly,” she said. “HSI does indeed show images of baby seals being clubbed (and shot) because 97 percent of the seals killed - according to the Canadian government’s own kill reports - are pups under just three months old and most are under one month old at the time of slaughter. The images we show are real and are current.”  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 
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