IFAW: Death knell for the Canadian seal hunt: Russia bans trade in harp seal pelts

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is applauding the news that Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation have banned the import and export of harp seal skins. Canada claims that Russia is one of the last two major remaining markets for Canadian seal products, reportedly receiving up to 90% of Canada's exports of seal pelts. IFAW says this is a major victory in the campaign to end commercial sealing, and that it should send a strong message that this is an industry whose time has passed.

“Russia ended its own hunt of harp seals in 2009, after listening to the concerns of the people who felt it was a cruel and unnecessary slaughter,” said Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW. “We are extremely pleased that the Russian government has taken the next logical step by banning all trade in harp seal pelts from other countries as well.”

The Russian market has long been hailed by the Canadian government as the main market for Canadian seal products. With the European Union ban on non-Inuit seal products still in place, a long-promised seal meat deal with China still unsigned, IFAW says the Canadian government and the sealing industry should acknowledge the reality that markets for seal products are disappearing.

“The writing is on the wall” said Sheryl Fink, Director of IFAW’s Seal Programme. “The Canadian government knows seal products are not wanted, and has had ample time to transition sealers out of this industry with compensation. Instead they have done nothing but dispute the rights of other nations by challenging seal product bans at the WTO. As Russia follows in the steps of the EU and closes its doors to seal products, it’s time to say enough is enough and stop the seal slaughter once and for all.”

“Canada will continue to be shunned by the international community as long as it persists with the outdated, inhumane slaughter of seal pups,” continued Fink.

IFAW opposes the seal hunt as it is cruel and unnecessary. The seals are clubbed or shot and skinned so that their fur can be used to provide luxury products for the fashion industry. IFAW has been campaigning to end commercial seal hunting for more than 40 years, and its work helped bring about the end of the Russian seal hunt in 2009. At the time, Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources Yury Trutnev said, “The bloody seal slaughter, the killing of the defenceless animals, which can’t be even called a ‘hunt,’ is now prohibited in Russia as it is in most developed countries. It is a serious step towards the conservation of biodiversity in Russia.” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also called seal hunting a “bloody industry” and something that “should have been banned years ago.”


For more information or to arrange interviews contact Amanda Gent in the IFAW Press Office on +44 (0)20 7587 6725 or email agent@ifaw.org or out of hours contact Clare Sterling – mobile +44 (0)7917 507717.

Notes to editors:

Timeline of shrinking markets

· 1972 US Congress passes Marine Mammal Protection Act, which bans the importation of seal products.
· 1983 IFAW helps win crucial ban in Europe on importation of newborn (whitecoat) harp seal and hooded seal (blueback) products.
· 1987 Canadian Government bans commercial hunting of whitecoats and bluebacks in Canadian waters.
· 1990 With IFAW’s involvement, South Africa ends the hunt for Cape fur seals.
· 2006 Mexico bans the import and export of marine mammals, including seals.
· 2007 IFAW campaigns result in Belgium and the Netherlands adopting national bans on the import of seal products.
· 2009 Russia bans the killing of harp seal pups under 12 months of age.
· 2009 European Union bans the import of all seal products, with an exemption for Inuit-derived skins.
· 2010 IFAW continues its fight to protect the EU ban, and continues to expose the cruelty of commercial hunts to governments around the world.
· 2011 Deal between Canada and China to allow export of seal meat products postponed
· 2011 Belarus, Kazhakhstan, and the Russian Federation ban the import and export fur skins of harp seals and their whitecoat pups

The trade document listing the ban can be found here: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news11_e/table1_annual_overview11.xls

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter