Date: September 25, 2007
Origin: CBC News

MONTREAL - A North American environmental commission has dismissed an application by two Mexican animal rights groups that claimed the seal hunt violates an international agreement on environmental protection.

A submission by the groups asserted that Ottawa was not enforcing its own laws with respect to the harp seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and along the Newfoundland and Labrador coast.

Specifically, they said Canada was not enforcing regulations prescribing the methods and instruments that are allowed to kill seals.

The Commission for Environmental Co-operation recently ruled that it couldn't consider the submission because it does not assert a failure to effectively enforce environmental law.

The commission was established by Canada, the United States and Mexico to address environmental issues, with a focus on those arising from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Under its rules anyone can submit a claim alleging that NAFTA countries have failed to effectively enforce environmental law.

In New York on Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended the annual seal hunt, saying it is "dedicated today to humane and regulated practices."

"The seal population is exploding in Canada - it's not an endangered species any means," he said following a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Harper called the hunt "a small industry of animal husbandry."

"There is no reason to discriminate against it any more than any other industry of animal husbandry," he said. "We will not be bullied or blackmailed into forcing people out of that industry who depend on the livelihood based on things that are simply on stories and on allegations that are simply not true."
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