NAMIBIA’S annual seal hunt, which will see some 86,000 Cape fur seals slaughtered by end November, starts on Sunday amid outcry from conservation groups that brand it a massacre for trade purposes.
This year targets are to club 80,000 pups and shoot 6000 bulls to death.
Namibian authorities maintain that what they call seal harvesting is meant to control the burgeoning population which threatens the fishing industry.
But activists slam these reasons as hypocritical, saying the hunts are carried out for commercial gain.
“There is no justification for the killing. This is purely a political and economic issue, with very little concern for animal welfare,” conservation charity International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) director for Southern Africa Jason Bell told AFP.
According to the ministry of fisheries and marine Resources, there were 1.3 million Cape fur seals in December last year, but IFAW and others reject the figure because they are not allowed access to records to verify how the animals are counted.
Access is also restricted to the colonies along the Skeleton Coast during harvesting.
According to IFAW, Namibia’s commercial seal hunt is the second-biggest in the world after Canada, which has also gained notoriety for the practice.
The offshore Cape Cross breeding colony, some 116 kilometres north of the central tourist town Swakopmund, is one of the two reserves where the killings take place, shielded from the media glare.
In the reserves, the seals are rounded up on the beach and hit on the head with spiked wooden clubs, sometimes repeatedly, to effect a deadly blow.
The carcasses are then loaded onto trucks and taken for processing in the factories of seven commercial licence holders.
The animals are harvested for their pelts, fat, which is used in beauty products and male sexual organs, believed to have aphrodisiac properties in Asia.