To what extent does the legal framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) permit trade restrictions that, at least in part, express the moral beliefs of particular societies and have a root in noninstrumental morality? This Article will consider this question using the current Seal Products dispute as an example. The Seal Products dispute between the European Union, Canada, and Norway will be the first occasion on which the WTO dispute settlement organs are required to consider noninstrumental rationales (expressions of intrinsic moral or spiritual beliefs) as a distinct basis for trade restrictive measures. While the WTO dispute settlement system is no stranger to cases regarding the treatment of animals, the policies at issue in earlier cases related to objectives-such as conservation of exhaustible natural resources that are anchored in environmental science and international policy, or that are related instrumentally to the protection of human life and health or economic interests. The EU seal products ban is in part aimed instrumentally at improving animal health and welfare, but it is also based on a level of protection for the animals in question that is grounded in the community's ethical beliefs about the nature of cruelty and the unacceptability of consumption behavior that is complicit with that cruelty.
Robert Howse & Joanna Langille,
Permitting Pluralism: The Seal Products Dispute and Why the WTO Should Accept Trade Restrictions Justified by Noninstrumental Moral Values,
Yale J. Int'l L.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjil/vol37/iss2/4