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European Parliament endorses import ban on sealskins

The Story


It's only the first step to a total ban, but environmentalists are applauding the European Parliament's vote to stop importing seal pup pelts from Canada. The International Fund for Animal Welfare takes much of the credit for the decision; it organized a huge mail-in campaign and lobbied parliamentarians to support the ban. But this clip from CBC Radio's Sunday Morning reveals that some members of the parliament have harsh criticism for IFAW and its backers. Two Inuit representatives from the Northwest Territories are observing the vote, and they say that if the ban is enacted their people will suffer. A British MP asks how fishermen in Canada will survive. Another questions the values of people who speak out for seals yet never send petitions when the European Parliament debates human poverty and torture. And the import ban could face resistance from a European Economic Community unwilling to risk losing diplomatic and economic ties with Canada.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: March 14, 1982
Guest(s): Steve Best, Ken Collins, Peter Ittinuar, Richard Nerysoo, James Provan, William Rompke
Reporter: Nick Peters
Duration: 10:45

Did You know?


• After the vote by the European Parliament, the issue went to its administrators, the European Commission, for consideration. In October 1982 the commission recommended a temporary import ban based on an anti-pornography clause in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The clause permitted trade restrictions to protect public morals.
• One month later the European Parliament effected a temporary ban to last until March 1983.

• Just before the temporary ban expired, the EEC extended it for another six months. Talks aimed at ending the ban took place between Canada, Norway and the European Commission, but on Oct. 1, 1983, the EEC implemented a two-year ban.
• Before the ban came into effect, European countries had been importing about 75 per cent of Canadian seal pelts.

• The effects of the ban were felt immediately. Only three vessels went out for the hunt that spring, taking just 30,000 seal pelts.
• Due to market uncertainty, buyers were paying $13 each for seal pelts -- half the price of the previous year.
• In April 1983 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ruled that neither the harp seal nor the hood seal was an endangered species.

• The United States had already effectively banned whitecoat products with the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. It prohibited importation of products from any nursing marine mammal under eight months old.


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Pelts, Pups and Protest: The Atlantic Seal Hunt more