Simon, sealers counter ‘disinformation’

Group hopes to head off more pelt bans by European countries


Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, this week joined a delegation comprised of Canada’s ambassador for fisheries conservation, Loyola Sullivan, plus representatives from the Fur Institute of Canada and East Coast sealers.

The group met this week with officials in four European countries seeking to counter what it called “disinformation campaigns waged by a number of animal rights groups.”

One of those countries, Belgium, has already banned the import of seal products, while two more, Germany and the Netherlands, are considering implementing their own. Britain, meanwhile, has said it would support a European Union-wide ban.

Simon met EU legislators and an official from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, whom she accused of using misleading promotional materials, including photos of whitecoat seals, which have not been hunted since 1987.”Seal hunting is an intrinsic part of our way of life,” Simon said in a news release. “It provides food, clothing, cultural and economic sustenance, and commercial interests. Selling pelts is a by-product of our subsistence hunt. We have no intention of stopping our traditional seal hunting practices.”

Simon said a European-led boycott of seal products in the early 1980s ravaged the Inuit economy. Members of the European Parliament are pressing the EU’s bureaucratic executive commission to ban the import of Canadian seal products. The commission has so far resisted, pledging instead to investigate whether the hunt is cruel.

No elected officials from the Government of Nunavut were on the junket, since Nunavut legislators were scrambling to get their budget passed before March 31, the end of the fiscal year.

The trip continues until April 6, and will also make stops in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. News reports Tuesday said Germany and the Netherlands were ready to enact their own bans on Canadian seal products.

The mission to Europe comes as a coalition of animal rights and environmental groups call for the end of the commercial seal hunt in Atlantic Canada due to record thin sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“Continuation of the commercial seal hunt cannot be reconciled with the long-term conservation of the harp seal – an ice-dependent species which is already suffering critical habitat loss due to global warming,” Toni Vernelli, oceans coordinator for Greenpeace Canada, said in a news release.

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