A new ban on the trading of seal products from controversial hunts will be a success despite concerns over loopholes in the legislation and legal challenges from seal industry, say campaigners.
Animal welfare groups say commercial seal hunting, in countries such as Canada, where the mammals are clubbed or shot for their fur, is both 'cruel and unnecessary' and welcome the EU-wide ban on the trade in seal products that came into force this week.
However, the legislation which was approved by EU ministers last year still faces a number of legal challenges.
Seal traders and lobby groups are attempting to overturn the regulations and have a case pending in the European courts. A temporary suspension of the trade ban ahead of that case had been in place since August but was this week revoked allowing the ban to officially come into force.
The EU bans prohibits the trade in products from all commercial seal hunts, including those in Canada, Namibia and Norway, but does not affect sealing by Inuit and other indigenous peoples.
The US and Mexico have also brought in similar bans on seal products from Canadian seal hunts.
Canada is currently consulting with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over whether it can overturn the ban and a decision on whether to bring a case is expected by the end of the year.
There have been concerns about loopholes in the legislation that mean UK and EU companies can still profit by using ports outside the EU to trade seal products 'remotely'.
Liberal Democrat MEP Diana Wallis, who brought the legislation forward, said they could not have stopped this. 'We can only deal with what happens in the EU market,' she says.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed and said it was difficult for the EU to legislate against companies operating internationally. 'We would prefer that it was covering them but we have sent a message to countries are involved in this trade that we don't want their products in our markets,' said EU director Lesley O'Donnell.
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