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Norway threatens action if EU bans seal products

April 21, 2009
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Norway has threatened to challenge the European Union over plans to ban imports of furs and other products from seals. The executive European Commission last year proposed banning the import of pelts from seals that have endured excessive suffering while being killed. In a letter to EU trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere wrote that a ban on trade of seal would impact the sustainable harvesting of renewable resources. Canada has also threatened to challenge the EU''s proposed ban. Canada, Greenland and Namibia account for around 60 percent of the 900,000 seals hunted each year. The rest are killed in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Britain and the United States. The EU’s 27 member states and the European Parliament are discussing the proposed ban before it becomes law. Norway, which is not a EU member state, said the drafts being discussed were unacceptable. The WTO''s dispute settlement understanding is intended to settle trade disputes when one country says another''s action or trade policies violate WTO agreements. The 15 seal species now hunted are not endangered but European politicians demanded action after finding what they said was evidence that many are skinned while still conscious. The animals are usually first shot or bludgeoned over the head with a spiked club known as a hakapik. Russia banned the hunting of baby harp seals last month, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called it a "bloody industry." A European Food Safety Authority report last year highlighted various causes of unnecessary suffering, such as trapping seals underwater where they drown. It recommended that seals first be shot or clubbed and then monitored to check they are dead before being bled and skinned, to ensure they never regain consciousness during the process.
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