A harp seal mother and pup haul out on ice in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada. Every year, nearly a million seals from 15 or more species are slaughtered around the globe. Canada, Greenland, Namibia, Russia and Norway are the primary seal hunters—for fur, meat, and oil to put in animal feed and omega-3 supplements. Some seals are also culled simply because they are viewed as competition to commercial fisheries. In 2010, Canada and Norway filed a challenge to a 2009 EU regulation that bans the trade in seal products within the European Union, with exemptions for subsistence hunts and regulated culls. In November 2013, the WTO panel issued its ruling—allowing the ban to stand but with qualifications that may or may not ultimately undermine it. The panel’s decision and its ramifications for the welfare of seals—and other animals subject to international trade—is discussed in the article on page 10.
Photo by Michio Hoshino/Minden Pictures