When you shop at Smile.Amazon.Com
Amazon donates to Harpseals.org
The Namibian Cape Fur Seal Slaughter
Harp seals are not the only pinniped victims of mass slaughter. Cape fur seals are also killed by the tens of thousands each year.
Cape fur seals live in southwestern Africa, along the coasts of South Africa and Namibia. They establish rookeries on rocky outcroppings and beaches.
Historically, South Africa harmed Cape fur seals both by forcing them off the best island rookeries and by killing them for their fur. South Africa no longer does either. The country is starting to allow them to reestablish nurseries on the islands and outcroppings on which they were forcibly removed. This is important, since rough seas can send pups too young to swim into the ocean when they are born on unsuitable, small islands.
Clubbers killing Cape fur seal pups. Active clubbing in front of piled up dead or dying pups. Photo from Earthrace video.
On the other hand, Namibia has been the scene of carnage for many years. Namibia's government licenses the massacre of up to 80,000 Cape fur seal pups and 6,000 bulls. In some years, the government has allowed 85,000 pups to be killed. This is about 60% of the seal pups born in these rookeries.
These annual massacres take place in three of the largest breeding colonies along the coast of Namibia: Atlas Bay, Wolf Bay, and Cape Cross.
This massacre is brutal and reckless
The massacre of Cape fur seals is brutal for a number of reasons, including the method of killing and the effect it has on the entire colony.
The rookeries are extremely crowded, with nursing pups, weaned pups, older juveniles, mothers, and fathers (bulls)
all together in a dense colony.
These seals, including the targeted pups are agile on land. In fact, they can run almost as fast as the men who kill them.
The men, who are unskilled, untrained seasonal workers, chase a group of pups away from their mothers and corral them in one area of the beach. This alone is enough to cause panic among all the seals in the colony.
The men are supposed to separate a small group of seal pups, but, undercover evidence shows that they often separate and club pups in groups of hundreds, leading to ineffective clubbing and even more suffering for the seals.
Once the men have a group of seals under their control, they let the group try to escape to the sea while clubbing them. They aim for the seals' heads and try to stun them.
In this panicked scene, with pups crying and terrified, trying to escape, clubbers often miss the seal pup's head or hit the head with inadequate force to stun the pup.The clubbers therefore hit the pups repeatedly as they try to stun them.
After they stun them, they stab the pups in the heart, still in front of the other pups and near the rest of the colony. Sometimes the pups have not been completely stunned or they regain consciousness as they are being stabbed.
These pups have been observed to vomit up their mothers' milk while they are stabbed.
This horror takes place every morning for about four and a half months, from July to mid-November.
"...Undercover video footage of the hunt at Cape Cross in July 2009, presents clear evidence of hunting regulations being contravened...The footage shows multiple clubbers striking pups within a large group of several hundred animals, contradicting the regulation that only small groups of pups, once they have been released from the large group, may be targeted.16 The purpose of this regulation is to avoid the ineffective stunning of pups that can be expected if attempting to strike individual targets within a dense, teeming mass of seals. Indeed, several instances of mistimed strikes are evident in the footage. Also apparent is that no attempt was being made to monitor and bleed immobilised pups immediately after stunning, as required by the recommended ‘three-step’ killing procedure. Thus, the footage indicates a disregard both of hunting regulations and of humane hunting practices intended to minimise avoidable pain and suffering."
Starving Cape fur seal pup. Photo: Grant Christie 2013
The invasion of the seal breeding colony by the clubbers, because it happens each day for months, causes chronic stress for the whole colony. This can lead to abandonment of pups and malnutrition and disease for the surviving seals.
Each year, about 135,000 Cape fur seal pups are born in the three breeding colonies in which the slaughter takes place. Killing 80,000 of them amounts to wiping out about 60% of the babies born each year.
Cape fur seals have suffered several mass die offs over the years, including the 1994-1995 die off, which was the largest recorded for any seal species. They may be experiencing another die off now. In the past few years, there have been several reports of large numbers of dead and dying seal pups on the Namibian coast.
"...the stress associated with the disturbance can be defined as chronic. Chronic stress may lead to disruption of normal physiological function and suppression of the reproductive and immune systems. Behavioural effects of such disturbance are likely to include reduced nourishment of surviving pups, on account of disruption of nursing or even abandonment of pups, inducing hunger and potentially starvation."
Bulldozer picks up dead Cape fur seals in seal reserve
The pups are killed mainly for their fur, but also for their blubber, which, like harp seal blubber, is sold as a 'health food supplement'. Hatem Yavuz, a Turkish-Australian fur dealer, is one of the main license holders. In 2014, he created a seal fur 'fashion line' called Fok You.
Most of the money made from killing Cape fur seals goes to these furriers, not the Namibian clubbers or the processors. Hatem and others who sell seal fur garments make thousands of dolllars on each seal fur coat while paying sealers and processors an average of $228 for the entire killing season. Read more here.
The slaughter is regulated by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. This agency considers the slaughter a jobs program even though it provides only about 120 low paid, mostly seasonal jobs.
The minister, Bernard Esau, has also said that seals should be culled because they eat too many fish. He has not maintained this position continuously due to the lack of scientific proof that seals are the problem, as opposed to the over-fishing and illegal fishing allowed by his agency.
Like Canadian fishermen and other fishermen around the world, Namibian fishermen see seals as competitors and advocate their slaughter. In Namibia, the main fishing enterprises are corrupt, Spanish-dominated hake fleets.
News on the Cape fur seal slaughter can be found here and in our news section.
Crowded seal colony
About Cape fur seals
Cape fur seals are eared seals, in the family, Otariidae. They are also referred to as brown fur seals.
There are two subspecies of Cape fur seals: the South African subspecies and the Australian subspecies.
Cape fur seal pups are born between late October and early January. The mother seals nurse their young for about a year, sometimes even longer.
Cape fur seals are listed by the CITES as a threatened species (Appendix II). For more on Cape fur seals, visit furseals.org.
Namibia's Cape fur seal slaughter: Undercover video
Whereas the Canadian government allows observation of the seal slaughter (with restrictions), the Namibian government goes to great lengths to prevent any observation or filming of the slaughter by the media or non-governmental organizations. Nevertheless, some undercover investigators have managed to obtain footage of the massacre. Please watch the videos below to get an idea of what happens to these seals.
Protest in Brussels against Cape fur seal slaughter in Namibia, organized by Bite Back. 2013.
Efforts to end the slaughter
Several organizations have been working to end the slaughter of Cape fur seals. These efforts have included protests, legal complaints, and efforts to ban imports of Cape fur seal products by nations around the world.
Legal efforts were spearheaded by Francois Hugo of Seal Alert SA in 2011. Hugo commissioned a legal opinion on the legality of the Cape fur seal slaughter, based on Namibia's own laws, including the Animal Protection Act (APA).
An Ombudsman was assigned to address this issue. In his report, the Ombudsman declared that the APA did not apply because seals are not animals, according the the definition in the APA.
In 2013, a Namibian law student, Suné de Klerk, completed a dissertation entitled, "Seal Harvesting in Namibia: A Critical Analysis" in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Laws at the University of Namibia. In this dissertation, she criticizes the Ombudsman's analysis.
Read more about the legal issues surrounding the Cape fur seal slaughter at furseals.org.
South Africa has not banned seal product imports. It is a significant importer of seal products from Namibia.
In late 2013, Harpseals.org drafted a letter to ministers of the South African government and to the President and Deputy President, requesting that the government end the trade in seal products. In addition, the letter requested that the government reject the suggestion of a member of parliament to resume South Africa's seal slaughter.
This letter was signed by 24 scientists and leaders of non-profit organizations. View it here. Read the press release here.
Take action today to end this massacre
Send automated emails to the people responsible for the slaughter
Avoid seafood from this region, especially hake, and try alternatives to seafood, including vegan seafood products offered by companies like Sophie's Kitchen, Vegetarian Plus, and May Wah Vegetarian Market.
Organize a protest. We can help. Contact us for supplies, advice, and advertising.
Cancel or postpone travel to Namibia until the slaughter is banned.
Comment on relevant articles online and send in letters to newspaper editors. This is a great way to spread the word.