Russia Bans Export and Import of Seal Skin

In a move that has come as a pleasant surprise for many animal activists Russia, Belarus and Kazakstan, informed the World Trade Organization that they are banning the import and export of harp seal pelts. Canada’s commercial harp seal industry will receive the biggest setback from this development.

Russia is a big buyer of the seal furs in the past from Canada with harp seal furs being the primary source.

In a letter to the WTO the three nations wrote that t they would no longer import or export “raw, tanned and dressed fur skin of harp seals and their pups.” The documents suggest that the prohibition was backdated to August.

The Canadian government is currently challenging a similar ban placed by the European union.

Sheryl Fink, the director of the seal program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare said, “If Russia is 90 per cent of the market, that’s a huge chunk gone, and it’s not a great market to start with. So the question is, is Canada going to admit that people don’t want seal products, or are we going to keep fighting this one?”

Rebecca Aldworth, the executive director of the Humane Society International/Canada welcomed the news and said that it showed how the movement had gained momentum globally.

“It clearly spells the end of Canadian sealing as so many other trade bans have done over recent years,” Aldworth said.

She also added that he organization is calling on the federal government to offer a one-time buy-out for people in Canada’s commercial sealing industry.

The government though seemed to be not prepared to hear such news from Russia.

Says And Rob Cahill the executive director of the Fur Council of Canada, “In fact, the traders this year have been trading seal furs into Russia and have not heard anything,”

Cahill also says that the way the document is worded, it does not specifically pertain to seal skin. He said that the pelts of grey seals and ring seals, as well as seal oil and seal meat, could still be exported from Canada to Russia.

“So we are still trying to make sense of it,” Cahill said.

But if reports are to be believed, Russia has halted purchase of seal skins after two final big purchases.

In 2009 Russia also banned killing of all seal pups under one year old after Russian President Vladimir Putin was revolted by the slaughter.  Canada on the other hand permits sealers to take pups that have lost their white coats, which occurs when they are between two and three weeks old.

Friends of Animals initiated a letter-writing campaign to Russia urging them to help prevent the massacre of seals elsewhere by banning imports.

Alan Herscovici, the executive vice-president of the Fur Council of Canada said that with the European seal ban, the last few years there has been much confusion in the market and that there was no scientific justification for a ban on the seal industry.

Seal kill numbers in Canada have plummeted in the last few years, from 205,000 seals killed in 2008, to 68,000 in 2010, and 38,000 in 2011 especially after the European ban.