Canada's Fur Institute says a recent poll of Europeans shows that the majority support the seal hunt.
"It says very clearly that they — at least the majority of them — find the seal hunt acceptable, while only a small percentage, a third, felt that no form of the seal hunt was acceptable," said David Hutton, co-chair of the Trade Fairness Coalition, a partnership with several sustainable-use and resource-based groups, including the Canadian Sealers Association.
The coalition retained polling firm Abacus Data to survey about 2,400 people in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. It was conducted ahead of a decision expected Thursday on Canada's appeal of a ban on the import of seal products to Europe.
Hutton said a majority of people — or 57 per cent — agreed that if the European Union ban is allowed to stand it could set a dangerous precedent for other animal products or natural resources.
However, given six options on another question, most people — or 33 per cent — said no form of the seal hunt is acceptable. Twenty-three per cent said seals should be allowed to be hunted, but only if their populations are not endangered and the animals do not suffer, or if only Inuit or other indigenous groups are allowed to take part.
Still, Hutton said the numbers confirm what the industry has long suspected.
"The majority of Europeans, just as the majority of Canadians, are in favour of the seal hunt as long as it's done in a humane and scientific basis," he said.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) had initially ruled that the ban did violate trade rules but still upheld it, referring to the ongoing outrage that Canada's seal hunt triggers in Europe.
"The panel found, however, that the EU Seal Regime does not violate Article 2.2 of the [Technical Barriers to Trade] Agreement because it fulfils the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent, and no alternative measure was demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution to the fulfilment of the objective," the panel wrote.
A similar decision was filed against a challenge brought against the ban by Norway, another country that allows a commercial seal hunt.
"So, they found in favour of Canada, but overall accepted the EU's argument on the morality clause, which is not defined in any way by the WTO," said Hutton.
He also challenged the anti-seal hunt assertion that the industry is unsustainable and foundering.
"A colleague calculated that the small hunt in 2012 likely --- if you cost out the consumption of fish eaten by the seals that were captured and harvested - would've been a value of over $360 million," said Hutton. "So I think in the end the truth will prevail, and that science over speculation will be the final outcome of these discussions and debates.
Meanwhile, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) quickly responded to the survey, noting the poll also found that only 24 per cent of Europeans support the commercial seal hunt.
"It's obvious that this poll has serious methodological problems, and its conclusions do not reflect reality," the IFAW stated in a news release.