On behalf of PETA, actor Rhys Ifans has urged the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to sustain the organisation’s decision to uphold the EU-wide ban on seal fur.
The Appellate Body is due to meet in Geneva on 17 March. Ifans’ letter comes just weeks before the start of Canada’s annual baby-seal slaughter and follows a successful plea from fellow actor Jude Law to the WTO last year to uphold the EU’s ban.
Because of the worldwide outcry, all major markets have banned seal-fur imports, including the EU, Mexico, Taiwan, the US and even Russia, which had been importing 95 per cent of Canada’s seal fur. The Canadian government is challenging the EU ban as a last-ditch effort to revive the trade, even though the lack of markets has led Canadian officials to examine seriously whether the slaughter should end.
“I was relieved to hear that the WTO had ruled to uphold the EU’s ban on seal-fur imports,” wrote Rhys. "This is a huge victory for Europeans like me, who for decades have wanted no part in Canada’s commercial seal slaughter. The whole world is turning its back on seal products – not just EU countries but also Mexico, Taiwan, the US and even Russia, which had been importing 95 per cent of Canada’s seal fur. In light of Canada’s decision to appeal the ruling, I’m writing to urge the Appellate Body to uphold the ban and also to consider the following points:
- After watching extensive video footage in which young seals had their skulls violently bashed in or were shot on the ice, reviewing thousands of pages of scientific documents and hearing from experts, the WTO panel hearing this case found that Canada’s commercial seal slaughter is inherently inhumane. This was an objective finding of fact and is not subject to appeal.
- The panel’s decision to uphold the ban defends the right of WTO members to take action against cruelty to animals, which is a landmark step towards protecting animals under international trade law.
- The panel acknowledged that Canada’s commercial seal slaughter has nothing to do with the native hunt in the north. Even though the panel found flaws in the administration and definition of the exemption for natives, it confirmed that the overall ban on seal products was justified as a reflection of European ethical and moral concerns.
“EU nations have made it clear that they want no part in the seal slaughter, which is merely an off-season cash grab for the Canadian fishing industry and accounts for less than 1 per cent of Newfoundland’s economy. Since Canada is challenging the EU ban merely for political reasons back home, I hope the Appellate Body will uphold it.”
For more information about the annual Canadian baby-seal slaughter, please visit PETA.org.uk.