An import ban in Hong Kong would prevent products made from Canadian seals from entering the mainland market without hurting local business, an animal welfare group that wants to end seal hunts says.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is stepping up its three-year petition drive for an import ban on seal products as Canada tries to tap the potentially huge Chinese market.
Canadian traders have been eyeing Asian markets to make up for business lost in Europe, Russia and the United States, said Sandy Macalister, executive director of the SPCA's Hong Kong chapter.
Macalister said the market for seal products in Hong Kong and on the mainland were tiny at the moment and the city would feel little impact if it banned them.
'The market is not here,' he said. 'There will be no economic impact at all in Hong Kong. It's very important for Hong Kong to show the world its initiative.'
The society said it had gathered 10,000 signatures since 2009 but hoped to collect 40,000 more in the next two months, as the peak hunting season begins in Canada. The group claims hunters skin seals alive for their fur, meat and oil - an allegation disputed by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The government agency cites a 2002 report by The Canadian Veterinary Journal that found 'the large majority of seals taken during the hunt (98 per cent) are killed in an acceptably humane manner'.
While Ottawa allows 300,000 to 400,000 seals to be killed annually, guidelines ban hunters from using methods considered inhumane.
Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea signed an agreement with Beijing officials last year allowing the export of seal products to China.
The US has banned the import of such products since the 1970s. The European Union did the same in 2009, followed last year by Russia.