The sealing industry of Canada believes that the EU’s seal culling plan is an act of hypocrisy. The European Parliament (EP) has recently approved a plan to manage the troublesome seal population due to concern of the decrease in fish stocks.  In September of this year, the EP called upon the European Commission to investigate whether the reduction in fish stocks was due to their natural predators, like seals, and if so, to then create a management plan that would help regulate the predator populations. This plan includes working with those member States that affected by the lack of fish.

In Canada, sealing is a commercialized industry where the seals are used for food, fuel and clothing. The Canadian sealing industry argues that seal harvesting is an economic mainstay for their numerous rural communities, and that seals are a valuable natural resource. Rob Cahill of the Fur Institute of Canada argued that the EU plans to be wasteful with the seals that are killed because they will only be used for personal consumption rather than being turned into commercial products (i.e. clothing and fuel).

In 2009, the EP voted to ban commercial seal products, prompting Canada to challenge the EP’s decision in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the only global international organization that deals with rules of trade between nations. The EU initiated the ban due to concern about the welfare of the animals because of the doubts expressed regarding the inhumane and unnecessarily painful way that the seals were being killed. Since some Member States had already decided that they wanted to ban the import and use of sealskins or products, the EP and Council decided to ban the trade of seal products in the EU. This ban also applies to imported products.

Not everyone agrees with Canada though. Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada, argues that what the EU is proposing will actually kill fewer seals than those killed for commercial purposes. The purpose of the seal culling is to protect marine ecosystems; it would seem pointless to kill so many seals that it would have a negative impact on the marine ecosystem.

Regardless of what happens with the seals, there is something far greater at stake for Canada. If Canada does not drop its WTO challenge, at least 100 members of the EP have vowed that they will not vote in favor of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement that is to be signed by the EU and Canada this year. This is important because it would “liberalize trade in goods and services could bring a potential 20% boost to bilateral trade and GDP gains of up to $12 billion for Canada by 2014.