Shrouded in secrecy, Namibian seal hunt closes for another season

Tuesday, 15 November, 2011

November 15 marks the official closing of the Namibian seal hunt for another season. Despite calls from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and other groups for transparency around Namibia’s annual hunt for Cape fur seals, it remains shrouded in secrecy.

The annual herding and clubbing to death of still-nursing seal pups has caused concern for scientists, animal welfarists, and the general public around the world.   The Scientific Opinion of the European Food Safety Authority on the Animal Welfare Aspects of the Killing and Skinning of Seals raised the serious welfare concerns regarding the Namibian seal hunt, concluding that “the Namibian hunt for Cape fur seal pups causes considerable disturbance to breeding colonies, and fear, distress, and other forms of suffering to the animals”.

This Scientific Opinion also recommended that seal hunts be opened to inspections and independent monitoring without undue interference.  Yet despite the growing international condemnation of the seal slaughter, the Namibian government denies that its annual hunt is cruel, while continuing to refuse observation of the hunt by third parties, and this season even went so far as to bring in the Navy to ‘protect’ the slaughter beaches from being observed during the hunt.

The Namibian government says that its annual hunt for Cape fur seals is done responsibly, yet there is absolutely no information available to support this claim.” said Sheryl Fink, Director of IFAW’s Seal Program, “On the contrary, all available evidence indicates that this hunt pose major animal welfare concerns. If this hunt is, in fact, sustainable, why is so much information being withheld from scientific scrutiny?  From the methodology used to determine the size of the seal population, to how many seals are actually killed each year, most of the facts on this hunt remain a complete mystery.

This past September, IFAW attended a stakeholder meeting in Windhoek with the Namibian Ombudsman, who is conducting a review of Namibia’s annual seal hunt. IFAW presented the scientific arguments for ending the hunt, as well as the numerous animal welfare concerns that have been raised by the international scientific community.

IFAW was pleased to meet with the Namibian Ombudsman, who has committed to a transparent and open process” said Fink, “We hope that in his official capacity, he will encourage the government of Namibia to be equally transparent when it comes to its seal hunt.  If there is truly nothing to hide, then why are they withholding the scientific information and preventing independent observation?

With an allowable catch of 85,000 pups and 6,000 bulls, the Namibian seal hunt is one of the few remaining marine mammal slaughters in the world. Since 1989, IFAW has been publicly opposing the culling of Cape Fur Seals and remains adamantly opposed to the annual slaughter of seals in Namibia on the grounds that it is inherently inhumane.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Sheryl Fink, Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations