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Namibia’s Annual Seal Slaughter

Namibia’s Annual Seal Slaughter

Many people know Namibia only as the place where Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s twin girls were born a few years ago. Most of them don’t know that this Southern African country is also the site of the world’s bloodiest annual seal hunt.

The Skeleton Coast on Namibia’s rugged Atlantic coast is an inhospitable and arid area where some 700,000 Cape Fur Seals live in several colonies. Every year, the government sanctions the “harvesting” of thousands of these animals in a culling season that extends from July to November.

With an allowable cull of 400,000 seals, Canada’s annual cull may be larger on paper, but this year “only” 38,000 seals were slaughtered there, while about 85,000 pups and 6,000 bulls were killed on Namibia’s beaches.

At the government-owned Cape Cross Seal Reserve, the location of one of the world’s largest Cape Fur Seal colonies, the culling happens for an hour every morning during the culling season. Dozens of men club seals over the head and stab them in the heart. Once they’ve been left to “bleed out,” the pups are skinned and their furs sent to Turkey where they are turned into coats that retail for as much as $30,000. The penises of the killed seal bulls are sold as an aphrodisiac on Asian markets where they can fetch up to $500 each. Once the beach has been cleaned up after the morning’s operations, the reserve’s gates are opened to unsuspecting tourists.

But why?

Proponents of the annual cull – chiefly the Namibian government – consider it a legitimate endeavor. They claim that the harvest is necessary to control the seal population and protect local fish stocks. According to fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, Namibia’s Cape Fur Seals consume 900,000 tons of fish every year and represent a real threat to the livelihood of the country’s fisher folk. In addition, officials say, the operation provides valuable income for the country and employment for its people.


In arguing against the cull, several international conservation organizations claim that the underlying motivation is greed. Seal Alert SA considers the killing to be “unlawful, unsustainable and cruel, and in violation of the [Namibian] constitution and the international trade in endangered species convention.” While the Cape Fur Seal is not a threatened species, it has a Cites listing suggesting that it might become endangered.

Contrary to government assertions, Seal Alert SA estimates that the country’s seals are responsible for losses of less than 0.3% to commercial fisheries. The cull’s job creation potential is minimal and the reported annual revenue generated amounts to only $125,000, eight times less than earnings from eco-tourism.

Jason Bell-Leash, the director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, describes the cull as “cruel, wasteful and out of step with global sentiment that believes commercial sealing should end.” He believes that “Namibia can produce no rational justification – scientific or otherwise – for a hunt which is nothing more than a beach-side bloodbath.”

The Namibian government has vowed to continue its annual seal harvest next year.

Andreas is a book shop manager and freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath


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5:35AM PST on Dec 14, 2011

thanks for sharing :)

2:21AM PST on Dec 1, 2011

Very sad.

3:44PM PST on Nov 25, 2011

Is there no barbarity that greed finds unacceptable?

2:59PM PST on Nov 23, 2011

since the celebrities cannot adopt all the orphan children from here, how about they get beat over the head and stabbed in the heart and sent to other places for a delicious meal! the little boys' penises can be sent to asia (i'm sure real human testosterone is MUCH better than a little furry animals!). so you can't make a coat out of a human but we are such a psychotic species that we will find a way...........i thought i hated canada the most but this country and its idiotic reasoning, stolen from the pages of the canadian fisheries minister, might pass canada by....

9:36PM PST on Nov 21, 2011

I never heard about this until a couple of years ago. We need to get this stopped. Sounds like individuals in the government is getting paid blood money to keep this going or else they are really stupid to not realize that a live seal will bring in the tourist and a dead one won't.

5:09PM PST on Nov 21, 2011

It is hard to tell other countries what to do when the USA isn't any better. We have rattlesnake roundups in New Mexico, Texas, Kansas etc. Because rattlesnake aren't cute and cuddly, most people don't care. Rattlesnakes are tormented, thrown around and then finally beheaded for a taste treat for the idiots who frequent these awful festivals.. We need to clean up our messes before we can tell other countries to clean up theirs.

4:12AM PST on Nov 21, 2011

To quote Gandhi, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

1:59AM PST on Nov 21, 2011

What we need is the “harvesting” of Homo sapiens starting with ALL the damn human trash that abuses, tortures and murders animals. This harvest is absolutely necessary to control the only pest on Earth, Homo sapiens, and protect animals and Mother Earth from this cancerous species. Man not only represents a real threat to the survival of all living systems and other species on Earth, but IS the present threat to any form of balance, justice and peace on Earth. The human race needs to go extinct NOW!

6:14PM PST on Nov 20, 2011

great article! I love that both sides were presented. But this practice needs to end in Namibia and elsewhere, esp Canada. It's not like these innocent seals are being killed to feed people, but to gain profit out of their body disgusting

5:04AM PST on Nov 20, 2011

Sea Shepherd volunteers go to bear witness and gather evidence about this hidden cruelty. They get chased away from the bech area by armed guards. Look up on the Sea Shepherd website for more info. & make sure you mention this to anyone planning a holiday in SA/Namibia and to any tour operators/travel agents you visit to discuss your reasons for choosing a holiday destination.
Once again it looks like the fur trade and the daft Chinese fake medicine trade - why are inadequate men SO obsessed with the size of their genitals?

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