Animal rights groups urge EU to impose ban on seal products

April 27, 2008 8:35:50 AM PDT

The EU has been under pressure from lawmakers at the European Parliament as well as the rights groups and to take action over the yearly hunt.

"We don't like the cruel seal hunt, we don't like these products in Europe," said Sonja Van Tichelen, head of Eurogroup for Animals, which represents 44 groups across Europe.

Video footage shot by activists showed sealers using rifles and spiked clubs to kill seals on ice floes.

Van Tichelen said the film was shot in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence over the past two months.

EU spokeswoman Barbara Helfferlich said the union's executive body plans to propose legislation within months banning the sale of products from seals that have been "unsustainably hunted ... inhumanely killed."

Canadian officials say the hunt is sustainable, humane and well-managed. Canada's ambassador for Fisheries Conservation, Loyola Sullivan, warned the European Union this month that Canada could take action under world trade rules if seal products such as blubber, meat or pelts are banned.

Canadian officials argue that a hunting ban would be disastrous for the aboriginal Inuit peoples who live in Canada's Arctic region and depend on the annual seal hunt for incomes and food. The Canadian hunt of some 335,000 seals in 2006 brought in about $25 million.

The EU has banned the import of white pelts from baby seals since 1983. Several European Union nations, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, have their own bans on all seal products. The United States has banned Canadian seal products since 1972.

The activists have also called for a total hunting ban that would affect Canada, which has the world's largest commercial hunt, along with Russia, Namibia, Greenland and EU members Finland and Sweden.