Canada filed a complaint against Belgium at the World Trade Organization, in an effort to reverse the European Union country's ban on seal products.
``This government believes that the Belgian ban on the importation and marketing of seal products is a violation of Belgium's international trade obligations under the WTO,'' Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson said in a statement e- mailed by his ministry.
Animal-rights activists complain that too many seals continue to be killed with so-called hakapik clubs, used for crushing the mammals' skulls.
While the Canadian government acknowledges that hunters in the country use the devices, it says sealers in areas "where 75 percent of the hunt occurs, primarily use rifles.''
Here's DFAIT's press release. Among other things, it states:
"Sealing is an important way of life for many Canadians, including Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples,” said Minister Hearn. “It is important that we pursue these consultations to maintain access to markets for all those involved in the sealing industry.”
ADDED: This article has a good description of the different parties' views. Some excerpts:
Inuit activists say the shrinking market for Canadian seal products in Europe is depriving communities in Newfoundland, Eastern Quebec and Nunavut, who depend on the seal hunt, a source of income.
[Filip Vandenbroeke, deputy head of mission at the Belgian Embassy in Ottawa,] described the dispute as a "highly emotional dossier on both sides of the ocean," but said the Belgian and Dutch laws include exceptions for the traditional Inuit hunt.
[Mary Simon, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami], however, said when limits on the number of seals that could be killed were implemented in the 1980s, prices decreased, and she foresees the same thing happening with the new bans.
"The exemption does not work because when you affect a commodity like seal skins, and the price goes down, you are no longer able to sell it. It affects everybody. That's what happened in the 1980s."