A European Union ban on imports of seal products not derived from the traditional Inuit seal hunt is legal, the 28-nation bloc's top court ruled on Thursday.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice rejected an appeal brought by an association representing the interests of Canadian Inuit — Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami — and seal product manufacturers against a ruling from a lower court in 2013.

"By today's judgment, the Court dismisses the appeal in its entirety," the Court said in a statement.
The association of Canadian Inuit had disputed the legality of the ban on the grounds that its objective — the protection of animal welfare — was not an exclusive competence of the EU.

The EU ban, which arose over concerns of brutality in the seal hunt, has been challenged by Canada and Norway in the past.

Canada's main seal hunt takes place in March and April on ice floes off the Atlantic Coast, and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Human Society, an animal protection group, said it was "overjoyed" by the ruling.

"It is time for the sealing industry to finally realise that this landmark legislation, which enjoys the support of millions of EU citizens, is here to stay," said Joanna Swabe, executive director of Humane Society International/Europe.

Seal products include fur for clothing, and oil that is used in vitamin supplements.