The EC-Seal Products is a case which caused considerable debate and attracted the greatest public attention in the recent years raising fundamental questions about trade liberalization, animal welfarism and pluralistic public morals under the World Trade Organization jurisprudence. The public policy implications of this unprecedented decision are far-reaching as both the Panel and the Appellate Body for the first time clarified that trade-restrictive regulatory measures qualify as exceptions under Article XX of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) despite the fact that these measures contain their own exceptions which compromise the policy objectives of the same measures by taking into account other policy objectives. The European Union introduced the policy as a response to the moral outrage concerning the inhumane killing of seals. The decision readily acknowledges the importance of a blanket trade ban on grounds of animal welfare in an era of increasing globalized trade. The interpretative issues inter alia touched upon the legitimacy of the exceptions to the Seal Regulations and the scope of animal welfare vis-a-vis the public moral exception under Article XX (a) of the GATT. The present article critically analyses the Appellate Body ruling in the EC-Seal Products dispute in the light of the growing concern regarding animal welfare and the resulting legislations across the globe.
Global Trade and Customs Journal