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Namibia's seal hunt threatens Cape fur seals
22 June 2009
Turkey acts as major receiver for products of Namibia's cruel seal cull
Canada seal cull:
Earlier this year, after years of campaigning by international welfare groups and individuals, the European Union finally introduced a ban on seal products. This, added to the pre-existing ban in the United states, had a huge impact on the available market for the products of the annual cull of harp seal pups off the Eastern seaboard of Canada.
As a result, many Canadian sealers opted not to cull seals this year. We understand that the total Canadian cull amounted to some 70,000 seals, still a huge number, but way down from the government quota of over 300,000. The number of seals culled in Canada has therefore fallen to its lowest level since the mid-1990s.
There is still a long way to go before the Canadian cull is consigned to the history books where it belongs, but the European Union ban demonstrated just what can be achieved by closing the doors to markets for the products of animal cruelty. As supporters of the Canadian sealing industry search for new markets for the products of their bloody trade, so the international welfare movement moves on to try and persuade other jurisdictions to follow the US and EU example.
Namibia seal cull:
Sadly, Canada isn't the only country in the world to operate a commercial seal slaughter. With the Canadian cull shrinking this year, Namibia now becomes the country to hold the grim distinction of operating the largest cull. Each year between July and November, some 90,000 Cape fur seals (also known as South African fur seals) from two colonies are brutally clubbed, then stabbed through the heart. Much of the killing is carried out by part-time, untrained workers hired by the sealers. The vast majority of the seals culled are less than a year old; some older, larger seals are also shot.
Despite existing in large colonies, and not being listed on the IUCNs red list of threatened species, Cape fur seals are thought to be declining in numbers throughout their range in Southern and South West Africa, and the species is listed in appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). In spite of this, Namibia, the only country that permits commercial culling of Cape fur seals, has increased the annual cull quota from around 60,000 in the year 2000, to the current level of around 90,000.
Namibia justifies the cull by claiming that the seals are depleting fish numbers and harming the fishing industry (with no reference to the damage the fishing industry itself is doing to fish stocks). It also claims the cull to be of economic importance.
The European connection:
Most of the seal skins obtained from the cull are initially shipped to Turkey under CITES permits for trading on or processing. Ironically, Turkey has been trying to join the European Union for several years, and as a member would now be subject to the EU seal products ban. However, until they achieve membership of the EU, Turkey continues to permit trade in seal skins from the Namibian cull. According to Seal Alert South Africa (http://sealatertsa.wordpress.com), all of the skins from Namibia's 2008 seal cull were purchased and sold on or processed by one company, the Hatem Yavuz company. Based in Sydney, with offices in Istanbul, Russia and South Africa, Hatem Yavuz’s own web site declares “Skins are our business” (http://www.yavuzgrup.com/index.htm).
The Namibian authorities have to date been reluctant to listen to arguments against the cull. However, the Turkish authorities may be responsive to suggestions that they should consider banning trade in seal products to bring them in line with the European Union. Animals Asia has therefore written to the Turkish authorities expressing our concerns about the cull, and the trade in seal products through Turkey. We have copied the letter to Hatem Yavuz.
We encourage supporters to do the same
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The Honorary Consul General
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Copy to Hatem Yavuz Group (
18 June 2009
Trade in products of the Namibian cull of Cape fur seals through Turkey
Animals Asia is a Hong Kong based non-government animal welfare organisation.
As you may know, the European Union introduced a ban on the products of commercial seal culls earlier this year. The ban was achieved after years of representations by groups and individuals from all over the world, concerned with the impact of large scale commercial culling of seals on their conservation and welfare. The ban follows similar action taken some years ago by the United States government.
As a result of the ban, we understand that the numbers of harp seals culled this year in Canada has dropped from over 300,000, to less than 70,000. This now gives Namibia, which slaughters around 90,000 young Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) between July and November each year, the grim distinction of hosting the largest commercial seal cull.
Cape fur seals lives along the South and South West coasts of Africa, where they gather in large colonies. Namibia is the only country that sanctions a cull of Cape fur seals. The seals are brutally clubbed and stabbed to death largely by untrained part time casual workers. Not only is the cull cruel, there is also concern that the populations of Cape fur seals are diminishing and that the cull is not sustainable. In spite of this, the Namibian authorities have increased the cull quota from around 60,000 in the year 2000, to some 90,000 currently.
We understand that Turkey is the major country through which the main product of the Namibian cull, ie the seal pelts, are traded. It seems ironic that had Turkey achieved membership of the European Union, then it would now be subject to the recent trade ban. Instead, while it remains outside, the bloody trade in seal products is allowed to continue.
We hereby urge the Turkish authorities to implement a ban on the trade of seal products, to help bring to an end the cruel and ecologically damaging Namibian cull, and to bring Turkey in line with the European Union.
Mark Jones BVSc MSc (Stir) MSc (UL) MRCVS, Veterinary Surgeon
Animal Welfare Director
Animals Asia Foundation
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