Meeting the players

The HSI team worked the Brussels field for over a year, meeting decision makers in the European Parliament, the Perm Reps and the European Commission to make their case. We were up against the diplomatic weapons of the Canadian government, so it was important to meet as many officials as possible, and explain relentlessly why the trade in seal products should be banned.

Over the months preceding the vote, we met over 150 MEPs face-to-face, almost all Environment officials in Perm Reps, and senior Members of the Commissioners Cabinet. Some ads even helped us securing meetings. During these meetings, we gave out documents explaining the details of this very complex issues, be it reports or traditional position papers.


Traditional lobbying – position papers

The campaign was also relying on the traditional lobbying materials such as position papers. As the issue was followed by many different Committees, there were choices to be made for each vote, position papers and voting lists to be adapted to each Committee.

Read the HSI position paper for the IMCO (Leading) Committee

Read the HSI position paper for the AGRI (Opinion) Committee

Reports on internal market, trade, legal basis and Greenland

The issue was technical, and many legal, trade and market issues were to be explained. HSI produced reports on the legal basis of the proposal, on WTO consequences and on consequences of the ban in Greenland, and used them in their meetings with over 150 MEPs, quasi all Member States, and Cabinet Members in the Commission.

See the HSI Greenland handout.

See the report on internal market and the legal basis for the Seal Products Trade Ban

See the HSI WTO Handout.

Innovative lobbying – door hangers

When the meetings had finished, the position papers had been distributed, when the advertising was done and when only hours were left before the vote, we needed to get the MEPs attention before they cast their vote. We designed innovative hotel breakfast menus like door-hanger was delivered and suspended from the office doors of all MEPs on the IMCO committee in the early morning – with an additional fluffy seal toy. We did a different door-hanger for the Plenary vote.

The IMCO doorhanger was a precise reminder of the arguments from our position paper, while the Plenary one was an injonction to do the right thing!

door hanger

Download the complete IMCO Handout doorhanger!

door hanger 2

Credit photos: Fuel Design

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!