Friday, May 16, 2014

Seals, public morality and public opinion

We are all familiar with the EU Seal case at the WTO. One of the main pivots around which the case revolves at the dispute settlement proceeding is the applicability of Article XX GATT which deals with General Exceptions. More specifically it is the "public morals" clause which does not prevent States from adopting or enforcing any measures "necessary to protect public morals". I have blogged about it earlier herehere and here.

Came across this report of a survey conducted in Europe on what Europeans think about the seal trade ban using the public morals clause. The study titled "European Opinion on Animal Use and Trade" came to one of these conclusions:

• 75% of respondents saw the use of animals as acceptable, so long it is done in a way that protects animal welfare and sustainability of the resource   
• Half of respondents (50%) agreed that a country or group of countries should not be able to ban a commercial product from being imported based on moral grounds unless the evidence used is fact-based and agreed upon by a credible independent third-party organization.  
 • A majority of respondents (57%) agreed that if the EU’s ban on the import and sale of seal products is allowed to stand it could set a dangerous precedent for other animal products or natural resources   
• A majority of respondents felt that seal hunting was acceptable under in some circumstances compared with a third (33%) who felt that no form of seal hunting is acceptable.  
 • There was less division when it come to opinions about wild boar hunting: 82% of respondents supported wild boar hunting in some capacity while 14% were completely opposed. 
Of course, people will challenge the timing and veracity of this data study. But interesting to evaluate how such "evidences" of public opinion can influence the debate on what is "public morality". 

Also was quite interesting to note the significant difference between attitude towards seals vs a vis wild boars.

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