Humane Intent of European Law Does a Disappearing Act
The advertisement on the facing page ran in the European Voice just before the final vote on implementation of the European Union import ban on fur. AWI and the 16 major organizations whose logos appear on the bottom of the ad appealed to the Council of Ministers to reject the U.S. proposal. But heavy lobbying from the United States, particularly the threatened World Trade Organization Challenge of the EU law, overpowered the United Kingdom, Belgiumand Austria – who stood for protection of animals from the cruel jaws of leghold traps.
The U.S./EU Agreement is flawed for the following reasons: it is not legally binding; it defers responsibility by the federal government to the state; it contains a loophole-ridden offer to slowly phase out use of "conventional" leghold restraining traps– without defining which leghold traps are "conventional"and which are not; and it embraces "best management practices"(BMPs), an idea contrived to disguise continued use of leghold traps.
NTA Gloats Over Agreement
The character of the U.S./European Union agreement is starkly revealed by the reaction it has inspired in the National Trappers Association (NTA), which is overjoyed that, as its president puts it, the agreement on trapping "remains firm in the necessity and humaneness of leghold traps."
In his letter to members, a copy of which has reached AWI, NTA President Craig Spoores assures trappers that "The scientific BMP process will discover that some leghold traps will continue to be necessary and prove best for some American species" (emphasis added).
Does Mr. Spoores possess some mystic power to foretell the future or is he simply passing along to his constituency the low-down on a back-room deal? The existence of such a deal has long been suspected between the European Union Commission, the Clinton Administration, and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies – which exerts massive influence over the state fish andgame departments.
"Thanks to you," Spoores wrote to NTA members, "the animal activists have suffered another major defeat. We still have our market and our tools." By "tools," Spoores undoubtedly means steel jaw leghold traps.
Meanwhile, in Parliament...
In the European Parliament, few have been as dedicated to animal welfare as Carlos Pimenta, the Portuguese member who authored the Parliament's stern condemnation of the previous draft trapping agreement. Speaking during the Parliament's debate on the issue in December, Pimenta said, "This very day, the European Unionis undertaking the conclusion of a new agreement, this time with the United States of America. The understanding I got by reading the texts I received privately is that this particular agreement is even weaker than the one we just analyzed with Canada and Russia. It is the worst because it gives more time to the United States to prohibit the use of leghold traps with jaws. It is especially bad as regards observation and enforcement....
"I would like to ask the Commission what did the American[Trade] Representative Charlene Barshefsky write in the letter she sent to Minister Klaus Kinkel, where she stated that this derogation will be applied in case of extreme necessity, and will remain the same as in the agreement with Canada and Russia."
"In reality [the U.S. agreement] is
Anita Pollack, another Member of the European Parliament who has strongly supported the leghold trap ban, said: "We are here debating a very peculiar creature. It is called an agreement yet in reality it is a non-agreement. I would liken it to the Cheshire Cat because all you can see is its smile. First, it should be said that Parliament did not seek this agreement, we want theimplementation of the 1991 Regulation. That was very carefully put together to end the worst cruelty associated with the trade which allows rich women to wear the furs of tortured animals.In the face of threats of WTO from Canada and the United States,the Commission took it upon itself to negotiate this non-agreement and it is fundamentally flawed....
"The Americans cannot ensure implementation because of their federal system. The Canadians are happy for it to have enough loopholes for a pack of wolves to run through, and the Russians love the self-enforcing, self-evaluating system. So there is still no commitment to abolish the cruel leghold traps. At the end of the day this unwanted, unworkable non-agreement will perpetuate the use of the leghold trap and is unable to improve the welfare of trapped animals. Even the Cheshire Cat trapped behind its smile. I urge support for the Pimenta report."
MEP Caroline Jackson asked Sir Leon Brittan, "One poin ton which I would be grateful if the Commissioner could reply.It seems that the Commission was possibly reluctant to implement the original Regulation because of fear of WTO proceedings. Is this true? How does the Commission regard the original Regulationas likely to fare within the WTO?"
Brittan did not reply to Jackson's questions, but sidestepped them by claiming, "We all share the same commitment,"noting that "the problem is more severe in the United States and it takes longer to get rid of it."
AWI QUARTERLY PAGE 4 · FALL 1997