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Canada calls WTO seal decision "political", EU ban "unfair"

Canada renewed its criticisms of an European Union  ban on seal products upheld by the World Trade Organisation, saying it is "unfair" and that its adoption was a purely "political decision."

OTTAWA: Canada renewed its criticisms of an European Union (EU)  ban on seal products upheld by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Thursday, saying it is "unfair" and that its adoption was a purely "political decision."

The WTO earlier upheld the EU ban on imports of seal products, rejecting an appeal by Canada and Norway, in a landmark ruling that said animal welfare can trump trade.

"Canada's position has been that the eastern and northern seal harvests are humane, sustainable and well-regulated activities that provide an important source of food and income for coastal and Inuit communities," Trade Minister Ed Fast said in a statement.

"The ban on seal products adopted in the European Union was a political decision that has no basis in fact or science," he said, calling it an "unfair ban."

The WTO ruled that while there was merit in Norway and Canada's complaints that their seal trade was being affected by the ban, this was outweighed by the EU goal of addressing moral concerns about seal welfare.

Brussels argued that the EU public strongly favours the ban due to concerns over hunting methods such as using a club with a metal spike - a "hakapik" - to stun seals before killing them.

Norway and Canada insisted that seal hunting is no worse than commercial deer-hunting, which is widespread in the EU.

The countries both kill tens of thousands of seals per year, and say hunting is a practice stretching back centuries.

The EU ban applies to commercial hunting from Norway as well as the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Quebec.

All told, 6,000 people hunt seals commercially in Canada, chiefly in Newfoundland.

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