Seal Clubbing in Namibia: Shocking footage just released


Seal pups, just a few months old, are killed with spiked wooden clubs.

Government claims the cull is to protect fish stocks, but campaigners say seals are clubbed to death for their fat and fur. John Vidal reports.......

This graphic and upsetting film, shot in 2011 but only just released by Earthrace Conservation, shows sealers clubbing Cape fur seals to death in a nature reserve. The footage has been presented to the country's government, but a request by animal protection groups to ban the practice has been ignored.

Release of the footage, taken by conservation group Earthrace Conservation, coincides with the start of this year's seal cull which is expected to kill 80-90,000 seal pups and up to 6,000 bulls. Campaigners say the seals are killed in order to sell their fat and fur, while the government has previously said they are killed to protect fish stocks - it says they consume 700,000 metric tons of fish annually.

The Netherlands-based conservation group called on the Namibian government to stop the cull, saying that a ban in neighbouring South Africa in 1990 had no economic impact on the fishery.

"Terrified pups are rounded up, separated from their mothers, and violently beaten to death. An additional 6,000 bull seals are killed for their genitalia which are thought to be an aphrodisiac in some cultures. Most of this is exported to Asia," said a spokesman for Earthrace who witnessed the hunt.

"At 6am, the clubbing begins. Then, at 9am each morning, bulldozers clean up and restore the beach before the tourists arrive to view the colony, because all of this happens in a designated seal reserve."

Namibia is the only country in the Cape fur seal's range in which commercial hunting is permitted. Sealing occurs on two mainland colonies, Cape Cross and Wolf/Atlas Bay.

Commercial hunters are thought to hire around 160 part-time workers to kill the pups, which are between the ages of 7 and 11 months, using spiked wooden clubs.

Namibia and Canada are the only two countries in the world which allow major seal culls. Two foreign journalists filming the Namibian seal cull in 2009 were arrested on the grounds they had entered a protected marine area without a permit, and one of them, Jim Wickens from the Ecologist Fim Unit, was beaten by seal hunters.

The Namibian government declined to comment on the new video.

John Vidal is the Guardian's environment editor. The Ecologist is a member of the Guardian's Environment Network article swap.

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You may also like to read this blog by Ecologist and author Hugh Warwick

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