Canadian Press
A typical Inuit seal hunt.

Inuit Furious as World Trade Organization Upholds European Union Seal Ban


Inuit leaders were fuming on May 22 as the World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld the European Union’s ban on seal products, saying the move was an imposition of European values on a traditional indigenous sustenance practice.

“I am morally outraged at the self-righteousness and sanctimoniousness of the EU’s claim to protect the morals of its citizens,” said Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), in a statement from the national Inuit organization. “Inuit live according to the principles of fairness and compassion, and we seek nothing more than to feed our families and make an honest living in the modern economy. It is morally reprehensible for anyone to impede those goals—which are the basic rights of any citizen of the world.”

Although the ban exempts Inuit who are subsistence harvesting, ITK said that even the exemption misses the point. The measure not only “was not designed by or in negotiation with Inuit,” but it also contains a loophole that allows Greenland Inuit products into the EU but excludes those of Inuit living in Canada, ITK said.

Both Canada and Norway had challenged the ban, which the EU originally handed down in 2010, on imports and sales of seal fur, meat and related products. Canada appealed the ban last year, and on Thursday May 22 the WTO ruled in favor of the EU and continued its support for the Inuit after the ruling.

RELATED: Inuit and Canadian Officials Lash Out at European Union's Seal Products Ban

On the one hand, three Canadian ministry officials said in a joint statement, the WTO has acknowledged that the ban “treats Canadian seal products unfairly.” On the other hand, the ban itself “was a political decision that has no basis in fact or science,” said Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea and Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq—herself an Inuit, as well as being minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council.


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