Research Handbook on EU Agriculture Law
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Research Handbook on EU Agriculture Law

Edited by Joseph A. McMahon and Michael N. Cardwell

Following the conclusion of the latest round of reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2013, the Research Handbook on EU Agriculture Law provides an up-to-date discussion of these reforms and the changing landscape in which the CAP now operates.
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Chapter 15: Of eggs, and seals, and leghold traps: Internal and external public morality as a factor in European Union animal welfare legislation

Roderic O’Gorman


In Seal Products, a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel and the Appellate Body gave detailed consideration to arguments surrounding the use of concern for animal welfare as grounds for regulating trade in certain products. The litigation sprang from a pair of European Union (EU) regulations designed to prohibit the importation of commercial products which were derived from the large scale hunting of seals. The ban was based on animal welfare concerns that were being expressed by citizens across the Member States regarding the manner in which seals were being killed. At the time of their passing in 2009–10, the Regulations were hailed as a ‘historic victory’ by animal rights advocates. The decision by the dispute settlement panel, and subsequently the Appellate Body, to uphold certain elements of the EU Seal Regime and declare others in breach of international trade law is considered to be of significance. However, while the EU Seal Regime may represent a clear articulation of a concern for animal welfare in third country states as an aspect of public morality within the EU, the EU institutions have been far less willing to allow the use of public morality grounds to challenge measures seen as in violation of animal welfare norms within the Member States. Such reluctance to fully embrace non-instrumentalist animal welfare concerns will probably continue to prevail, even post the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty.

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