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EU nations ban seal imports

EUROPEAN Union nations gave their final approval yesterday to a ban on imports of seal products in an effort to force Canada to end its annual seal hunt.

A majority of the EU's 27 member states see the way Canada conducts its hunt, the world's largest, as inhumane.

The EU's foreign ministers said the ban was being put in place "in response to concerns about the animal welfare aspects of seal hunting practices."

The ministers said the ban would be implemented in all EU countries over the next nine months and be in place before the annual seal hunt off Canada's eastern coast.

The ban was approved without debate at a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers, although Denmark and Romania abstained from backing the measure, which Ottawa is protesting as an unfair trade restriction. Austria also abstained because it wanted an even stricter ban.

The import ban will apply to all products and processed goods derived from seals, including their skins -which are used to make fur coats, bags and adorn clothing - as well as meat, oil blubber, organs and seal oil, which is used in some omega-3 pills.

It will exempt products derived from traditional hunts carried out by Inuit in Canada's Arctic, as well as those from Greenland, Alaska and Russia. However, they can only export products to the EU "on a not-for-profit basis."

Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day and Fisheries Minister Gail Shea appealed to the EU to reconsider the trade ban, rejecting European claims that the way the hunt was conducted was inhumane.

They said in a statement issued in Ottawa that the measure "will serve no purpose other than to damage the livelihood of coastal and northern Canadians and their families." It added that the EU was "misinformed" over Canada's indigenous Inuit community and its traditions.

Canada is pursuing a trade case against the ban at the World Trade Organization in Geneva.


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