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Humane Society International Condemns Namibian Seal Slaughter and Attack on Observers

Humane Society International

Observers from Dutch animal protection group Bont voor Dieren and investigations firm Ecostorm were reportedly physically attacked this week by seal hunters in Namibia. The observers were attempting to document and film the commercial seal slaughter. It was further reported by Agence France Presse that the Namibian authorities arrested the observers (Namibia has placed tight restrictions on visits to the seal colonies) rather than the sealers.

Humane Society International condemns attempts by the sealing industry and governments to block independent observation and documentation of commercial seal slaughters.

"Each year, tens of thousands of nursing seal pups are cruelly clubbed and stabbed to death in Namibia for their fur," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of Humane Society International Canada. "With markets for seal products closing, the Namibian sealing industry is clearly desperate to hide the shocking images of this globally condemned slaughter from the public."

Commercial seal slaughters are horrific and cruel processes. The reported attacks on seal hunt observers in Namibia are, regrettably, not unusual outbursts around such events. In Canada, HSI seal hunt observers, independent journalists and parliamentarians are routinely threatened, harassed and physically attacked to prevent them from documenting the seal hunt.

Recently, Namibia was in global headlines when the only seal hunt concessionaire in the country — Hatem Yavuz — was reported to be willing to retire his concession in exchange for financial compensation. However, in absence of endorsement and support from the Namibian government, no such deal could ever work. As Mr. Hatem noted to The Times (part of the Times Group of South Africa), "you cannot buy the quota, because that's owned by the state, and therefore buying me out is not going to stop seal harvesting."

HSI believes that a positive solution can be found for the seals, the sealers and the communities involved in the seal hunt. HSI and the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of South Africa met several years ago with the Namibian government and are hoping to reopen these discussions in the coming weeks with the aim of negotiating an end to this slaughter. South Africa placed a moratorium on commercial seal hunting in the 1990s.

Legislation to end the commercial seal hunt paired with a fair compensation plan for sealers and alternative economic development hold the potential to bring far more money into the remote Namibian communities near the seal colonies than commercial sealing ever could.  

Facts on Namibia's Commercial Seal Hunt:

  • The Cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) has been commercially hunted off the coast of southern Africa since the early 17th century. By the late 1800s, 23 colonies had been wiped out.
  • Today, the Namibian hunt targets three mainland colonies in Cape Cross, Wolf Bay and Atlas Bay.
  • The Namibian seal hunt is the third-largest commercial seal slaughter in the world. In 2008, the Namibian seal quota was 80,000 pups and 6,000 bulls.
  • The seals are hunted for their skins, which are marketed to international fur markets, and for their organs, which are traded as aphrodisiacs.
  • Cape fur seal pups are killed at approximately 7 months of age; this is before they have been weaned. According to Namibian regulations, pups must be clubbed on the head, and then their hearts pierced with a knife to bleed them out.
  • During the hunt, several hundred pups may be killed within a rapid time frame (1 to 2 hours).
  • The European Union prohibited its trade in products of commercial seal slaughters in May of this year and this has depressed commercial interest in seal products.

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Humane Society International and its affiliate organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. HSI is creating a better future for animals and people through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — On the web at hsi.org.