The annual fur seal culling season in Namibia, which is set to start on July 1, might possibly escape the international limelight due to the Fifa World Cup in South Africa, but animal rights activists are again preparing to try and halt the mass slaughter on Namibian beaches.
Last year the quota authorised by the Fisheries Ministry was for 85 000 seal pups and 6 000 bulls.
The seal pups are mostly still nursed by their mothers and are chased to form large groups and are then clubbed and bludgeoned to death. The seal bulls are shot.
“We will use the international media attention on the Soccer Cup and thus southern Africa to draw the global media attention on Namibia’s annual killing season,” a source close to animal rights groups said yesterday.
Leading seal welfare activist Francois Hugo of Seal Alert South Africa, supported by 50 animal welfare organisations in 22 countries, sent a letter to the Fisheries Ministry on May 25 asking him to stop the 2010 seal culling season in Namibia.
Seal Alert also requested a meeting with the new Fisheries Minister, Bernard Esau.
“The Minister replied on June 2 and rejected a meeting,” Hugo told The Namibian yesterday in an e-mail response to written questions forwarded to him.
“It is Seal Alert SA’s view based on legal opinion that the seal cull is unlawful and that the regulations [to kill seal pups with one hit] cannot be applied by the sealers and cause immense disturbance and cruelty to these sentient endangered marine mammals who feel pain and fear,” Hugo added.
In his view, eco-tourism, such as boat trips and beach outings to view seal colonies, would be a better alternative.
Recently Minister Esau told The Namibian that he was aware that the clubbing method used in Namibia was a concern for animal welfare organisations.
Two leading experts expressed their concern about the clubbing methods applied in Namibia.
“The Namibian seal hunt is inherently inhumane and science-based guidelines for ‘humane slaughter’ will never be adequate to address the multifarious welfare concerns associated with this and other hunts that involve large-scale slaughter in crowded seal colonies,” said Stephen Kirkman and David Lavigne in the April 2010 edition of the South African Journal of Science.
Last year Namibia’s Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) called on the Fisheries Ministry to find a more ‘humane’ method of clubbing baby seals to death during the annual sealing season, otherwise the harvesting should be discontinued.
The SPCA further requested to observe last year’s culling with its veterinarians, but the Ministry declined, saying the 2009 cull had almost come to an end. The SPCA will be allowed to observe this year’s cull.
Last year The Namibian applied for permission from the Fisheries Ministry to go into the seal culling area but was denied access by its former Permanent Secretary Frans Tsheehama, who said no reporting on site would be permitted during the harvesting of seals.
“If the Government decides for the coverage by the media, such a project will be awarded to State media institutions of which terms and conditions will be drafted and agreed upon in writing,” Tsheehama said then.
The European Union last year banned all imports of seal products into their member countries.
Even Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered a stop to the slaughtering of baby seals in Russia in May 2009.
“The bloody sight of the hunting of seals, the slaughter of these defenceless animals which you cannot even call a real hunt, is banned in our country, just as well as in most developed countries, and is a serious step to protect the biodiversity of the Russian Federation,” the Russian government said in a statement then.