Animal Protection > Worldwide Actions > Belgium
Parliament bans the import of all seal products 202734
25 January 2007

Historic achievement for IFAW's seal campaign

(Brussels - 25 January 2007) - The Belgian Parliament today voted unanimously to implement a national ban on the import of all seal products, making Belgium the first nation in the European Union to do so. The ban closes the Belgian market for the commercial seal trade, sending an important message to the Canadian government that Belgium wants no part of Canada's cruel commercial seal hunt. IFAW applauds this decision. Over the past years, its EU Office - together with the Belgian NGO GAIA - has been calling for a national ban in Belgium.

"We would like to thank the Belgian Government, especially the three ministers involved in the initiative, and the MPs who supported this landmark decision. The Parliament vote will help to end the commercial seal hunt by reducing demand for seal products," said Lesley O'Donnell, Director of IFAW's EU Office. "This is a monumental achievement for our founding campaign and we hope the Belgian example will encourage other European nations to adopt their own national bans."

The Belgian Parliament's vote demonstrates to the Canadian Government that markets for all seal products in Europe can be closed. Throughout the past year, there have been strong steps to stop the trade of seal products in Europe. The German Parliament voted unanimously on a motion urging the government to ban seal products, just one month after the EU Parliament passed a Written Declaration in support of an EU-wide trade ban.

"Belgium's ban indicates that European opposition to the seal hunt is growing and global markets will continue to close until this cruel hunt is ended," added Ms. O'Donnell.

Notes to the editor:

* According to EUROSTAT, Belgium imported in 2005 articles made of seal furskin for a value of 3.5 million euros from non-EU countries and for 1.3 million euros from EU Member States. It exported seal furskin products to other EU countries for a value of 3.4 million euros. The imported seal oil had a value of 4,867 euros.

* In September 2006, the European Parliament called for an end to the trade in seal products. A total of 425 (of 732) MEPs signed a Written Declaration setting a record for the highest number of signatures on any single Written Declaration. The resolution asks the European Commission to produce a legislative proposal for a seal ban. In October 2006, the European Parliament adopted another resolution on the Animal Welfare Action Plan which calls for an EU-wide ban on seal derived products.

* The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe ( called in November 2006 on its Member States to introduce national bans on seal derived products.

* In December 2005, the Dutch Parliament initiated a legislative proposal to ban the import/export and marketing of harp and hooded seals and their derived products. The proposal is expected to be adopted in the Parliament in February 2007.

* Italy introduced in 2005 a temporary ban on seal products. A governmental proposal for a permanent ban is awaited.

* Last year, the German Parliament voted unanimously on a motion urging the government to ban seal products.

* The European Union introduced in 1983 a ban on seal products derived from whitecoats (newborn harp seals, less than 12 days old) and bluebacks (young hooded seals, less than one year old). Unfortunately, this ban is not effective in order to stop the current trade of harp and hooded seal pelts in Europe. Today, seals are hunted when they are just a few days older and their pelts can therefore be legally traded in the EU which is still the largest market for seal products in the world.

* The United States, Mexico (both through a Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the import/export and marketing of all marine mammal products) and Croatia have already a ban on seal products.

For media-related inquiries, contact:
Günther Pauls (IFAW) - Tel: +32 (0)2 282 06 93 or 0473 863 461;
Email: gpauls@ifaw. org
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