The head of one of Canada's largest seal processing companies says animal welfare groups should not necessarily celebrate a World Trade Organization decision that upheld a European ban on seal products. 

Dion Dakins, CEO of Carino Processing Ltd., said that's because a WTO appellate body agreed  despite upholding a prior WTO decision  that Canada has valid points about how the European Union created the ban five years ago. 

'We always knew as an industry the decision of the World Trade Organization would never be black or white. It wasn't that there was going to be a ban today, and there won't be [a ban] tomorrow' - Dion Dakins

"It's funny that within three minutes of the document being made public [on Thursday], we have opponents of the seal hunt trumpeting," said Dakins.

"It's just a typical normal tactic employed by groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Humane Society to take clips and snippets, pieces of documents that suit their end goal." 

Speaking with CBC Radio's Fisheries Broadcast, Dakins said that when the decision has been fully analyzed, Canadian sealers to "come out of this thing pretty well." 

The WTO appellate body reversed aspects of the previous panel's finding on the EU's seal regime, the mechanism introduced in 2009 that banned on moral objections the importation and marketing of seal products. For instance, the body declared "moot and of no legal effect" several clauses of a prior decision. 

Ban called arbitrary and unfair

Canadian officials are determining the practical consequences of that decision, given that the EU ban itself remains upheld. 

Canada contends that the EU's seal regime is arbitrary and unfair, noting that Greenland seal products, for instance, are allowed in the European marketplace.

"We always knew as an industry the decision of the World Trade Organization would never be black or white. It wasn't that there was going to be a ban today, and there won't be [a ban] tomorrow," he said.


Many supporters of the seal hunt, especially in Inuit communities, posted "sealfie" photos of themselves on social media. (Twitter)

"This is why the [sealing] industry, in cooperation with people from the East Coast [of Canada]

, so Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Nunavut worked collectively and collaboratively to launch an appeal at the European Court of Justice and the European General Court, to make sure that this ban was attacked from every possible angle," Dakins added.

After Thursday's ruling, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign manager Dani Katz said PETA was pleased that the WTO upheld the EU ban on seal fur imports on moral grounds.

"This decision is a major win for baby seals, who are shot or bludgeoned to death in front of other terrified seals, and it's [the ruling is] a landmark step toward protecting animals under international trade law," said Katz.

'Seals will continue to be hunted'

Dakins disagrees. He said if the EU ban is about animal welfare, "then they've [gone] about it in a pretty poor way, because [the ban does] nothing to improve the way seals are hunted in Canada, because seals will continue to be hunted." 

Canada joined with Norway in appealing last November's WTO ruling.

"Would we have liked to have seen animal welfare not being addressed at the WTO under a public morality auspice? Most definitely."

"But that's the way they are going to go forward, and I guess the world is going to have to figure out how they're going to play on that field," Dakins said.

Based in South Dildo, Carino is the largest buyer of seal pelts in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

With files from Jamie Baker