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Ottawa files appeal of World Trade Organization ruling on EU seal products ban

OTTAWA - Ottawa has filed its appeal of a World Trade Organization ruling that says aspects of Europe's ban on importing seal products undermine fair trade but can be justified on "public moral concerns" for animal welfare.

The WTO decision in November was hailed by opponents of Canada's commercial seal hunt, who called it a landmark victory even though it said there were inconsistencies with the ban.

The ruling said exemptions under the EU ban for aboriginal hunts and those conducted to manage seal populations weren't being fairly applied.

But it also said the ban satisfies public concerns about the welfare of seals to an extent.

At issue was a challenge by Canada and Norway of the 28-member EU's 2010 ban on the import and sale of seal fur, meat, blubber and other products.

The federal government has repeatedly said the ban is unfair because it discriminates against Canadian seal products that come from an industry that follows humane measures.

But critics of the hunt dispute say the seal hunt is a cruel, unnecessary slaughter.

A spokeswoman for federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea says the appeal is expected to be heard in Geneva in the last week of February or first week of March.

The Canadian Press

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