Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic January 13, 2010 - 12:32 pm

Inuit groups launch lawsuit over EU seal ban

“It is important for Inuit across the Davis Strait to unite and fight.”

CHRIS WINDEYER

Groups representing Inuit in Canada and Greenland filed a lawsuit Wednesday that seeks to overturn the European Union’s ban on importing seal products.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Inuit Circumpolar Council (Greenland) filed the suit in the European Union’s General Court.

“It is important for Inuit across the Davis Strait to unite and fight this unethical legislation,” said Aqqaluk Lynge, president of ICC (Greenland) in a news release.

“On top of the climate change issue, we must contend with animal rights extremists who fundamentally do not respect our way of life, and who use disinformation to further their cause at our expense.”

ITK president Mary Simon said the European ban smacks of racism and hypocracy.

“It is bitterly ironic that the EU, which seems entirely at home with promoting massive levels of agri-business and the raising and slaughtering of animals in highly industrialized conditions, seeks to preach some kind of selective elevated morality to Inuit,” she said.

The ban passed overwhelmingly in the European Parliament this past May, despite the opposition of a handful of conservative politicians, including Peter Stasny, the former Quebec Nordique hockey player.

While the bill contained an exemption for seals hunted by Inuit, but Canada has rejected that clause because the ban still dried up demand for seal pelts and caused prices to plummet.

“The EU has demonstrated more interest in keeping non-Inuit out of the market than finding ways of including Inuit,” said Duane Smith, president of ICC (Canada). “As such, it is hard to support such an unclear, flawed, and unfair regulation. They left us with no alternative but to sue.”

The federal government is already challenging the ban at the World Trade Organization, a move ITK supports.

The lawsuit also comes as Gail Shea, the federal fisheries minister, is in China, in part to drum up interest for Canadian seal products.

With a market of 1.3 billion people and little in the way of an animal rights movement, the world’s most populous country is seen as a possible saviour for the Canadian seal trade.

A federal news release calls China the world’s largest consumer of fish and seafood.

“Sealing is about more than fur,” Shea said in the release. “The trade of other seal products such as oils and meat represents a growing share of what is already a multi-million dollar business.”

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