Canadian minister challenges moral basis of European seal product ban

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GENEVA - Canada's northern development minister says it was wrong for the World Trade Organization to uphold a European Union ban on seal products based on moral grounds.

Leona Aglukkaq says she made that argument today in a presentation to the WTO in Geneva.

Canada and Norway are in the process of appealing a landmark WTO dispute-settlement ruling, which concluded that while the ban undermines fair trade, the restrictions can be justified on "public moral concerns" for animal welfare.

Aglukkaq says the ruling sets a dangerous precedent because it offers the EU the opportunity to ban products from any type of business that involves the killing of animals, including the beef and poultry industries.

The minister says Canada's annual seal hunt is humane, sustainable and well-regulated.

Rebecca Aldworth, head of the Canadian wing of Humane Society International, says the WTO based its initial ruling on five decades of veterinary science that suggest seals are often killed inhumanely, which Europeans find morally objectionable.

The three-day WTO appeal hearing wraps up Wednesday and a final ruling is expected next month.

Organizations: World Trade Organization, European Union, Humane Society International

Geographic location: Canada, GENEVA, Norway

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