The elements of a success story.

On 5 November 2009 in Brussels, the Humane Society International’s “Ban the cruel seal trade” campaign was recognised as the Campaign of the Year at the European Public Affairs Awards 2009.

In accepting the award, Mark Glover of HSI reminded the packed auditorium that the campaign had saved the lives of a quarter of a million seals in 2009 alone before the ban had even come into force and, hopefully, would continue to do so in the future. The award was poignant as, earlier in the week, the Canadian and Norwegian governments announced their intention to challenge the EU trade ban in the World Trade Organisation.

The EPA Campaign of the Year Award is a fitting tribute to a programme that was innovative and persistent and, as a result, highly effective. Yet it could easily have been lost but for the determination of the team never to take “No” (or, at times, “Yes”) for an answer!

Scroll down to review the story of a successful campaign for a noble cause – banning the trade in seal products in the European Union.

Here are some highlights:

  • personal meetings with over 150 MEPs
  • a petition that gathered over 220,000 signatures
  • an unexpected landslide vote in favour of amendments for a total trade ban promoted by HSI in the EP’s Internal Market Committee
  • a decisive Parliamentary vote 550 “for”, 49 “against” for a first reading package agreed with Council which contained all HSI’s key positions
  • converting an insufficient simple majority in Council to a decisive qualified majority because HSI brought forward the right legal and market arguments to counter critics
  • 300,000 young seals were not slaughtered this year (out of a Canadian government quota of c. 360,000) as the market for seal pelts collapsed in anticipation of EU legislation

The Humane Society International was successful at obtaining its objectives when the entire Canadian government and diplomatic corps was deployed all across Europe to defeat it. To reach a seemingly impossible objective, we had to find new techniques. One of the reasons for the success was the outstanding way in which classical advocacy of the EU institutions was supplemented and strengthened by innovative and highly effective political communications in the public eye (through advertising, PR activities and online campaigning) which ensured that the advocacy gains were sustained to the end.

Scroll down below to view the key elements of the campaign, showing the range of the work carried out.

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If you think the HSI campaign deserves recognition, then we’d be grateful if you would vote for it (and for any of the other awards that are to be discerned). If you prefer to vote for another nominee, then that is great too – the more votes that are cast the better!

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Reaching out to the public – seals distribution

Public support – and strong images – were reinforced when we distributed thousands of fluffy baby seal toys before the major IMCO Committee vote in Brussels, and before the Plenary vote in Strasbourg.

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IMCO Committee vote

While our hostesses handed out thousands of fluffy seals at the entrances of the European Parliament and on Place Luxembourg, each IMCO MEP received one at the door of its desk, complete with its fake voting card which summarized our main arguments!

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Plenary vote

When it was time to go to Strasbourg for the vote in Plenary, we distributed again thousands of seals at the doors of the European Parliament buildings… and put our doorhandle “position paper” on each door of each MEP’s office!

Credits photos: Fuel design, S. Kircher