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GENEVA May 22 The European Union fended off an
attempt by Norway and Canada to overturn its ban on imports of
their seal products, winning an important part of an appeal
ruling at the World Trade Organization on Thursday
The WTO's Appellate Body upheld an earlier ruling that the
EU rules were "necessary to protect public morals", although it
also let stand an earlier finding that the EU had illegally
discriminated against imports from Canada and Norway in favour
of seal products from within the 28-nation bloc.
Many animal rights groups have long said the commercial
killing of seals and their pups for fur and other products is
cruel, but Canada has said public opposition to its seal trade
was based on "myths and misinformation".
"This is a wonderful day for seals," Sheryl Fink, a Canadian
who is the wildlife programs director at the International Fund
for Animal Welfare, said in an emailed statement. "This is a
great day for animal welfare, and the WTO is to be congratulated
on this ruling."
In its convoluted ruling, the Appellate Body judges - whose
decision is final - faulted the EU on several counts, including
for failing to properly justify its ban, even though the ban
itself was upheld.
Jenni Byrne, a senior adviser to Canadian Prime Minister
Stephen Harper, said on Twitter: "The ban on seal products
adopted in the EU was a political decision that has no basis in
fact or science.
"Today the WTO confirmed (the) EU measure on seal hunt
violates its international obligations. Pleased with the
(finding) Canadian sealers were wronged," she said.
"We expect (the) EU to comply with the decision while we
continue to stand up for trade fairness."
WTO law is binding on all 159 member states, but they can
break that law for a few reasons including public morals or
human, animal and plant health.
(Reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and David Ljunggren in
Ottawa; Editing by Mark Heinrich)