Harp seal pup, Cape Breton, 2009 Photo: B. Curran/ACASC

Tomorrow is International Day of Action for Seals, with demonstrations being held across Canada, in the US, and around the world to show opposition to the slaughter of seals in countries such as Canada and Namibia.

Some may be saying: “It is 2012, why has this slaughter not been shut down yet?!”  You need to read this inspiring blog by IFAW’s Sheryl Fink, which shows the giant strides the anti-sealing campaign has made in the past few years, and the huge victories won for seals.

I first got directly involved in the seal hunt issue in 2006 and am amazed at the accomplishments of the past six years and deeply touched by the generosity, compassion and dedication of so many around the world battling on to win protection for seals.  We are very close to ending the cruel slaughter once and for all!

Here are a few actions you can take to help protect seals on the International Day of Action for Seals:

1. Attend a demo or rally in your area. Rallies are being held across Canada, the US and internationally.  A list can be found on Facebook HERE.

2.  Tell your MP to protect seals and provide sealers with opportunities to transition out of this dying industry. Canadians can use THIS FORM to quickly and easily email their Member of Parliament to urge them to protect seals and to show real support by sealers by helping them to transition out of the industry.

3.  Tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end the commercial seal hunt. The majority of Canadians oppose the commercial seal hunt, yet each year the Harper government lavishes millions of our tax dollars on the annual slaughter.  If you live in Canada please use THIS FORM – if you live outside of Canada, please use THIS FORM – to send an email asking him to respect the wishes of Canadians and stop the slaughter.

4.  Tell Canadian Ambassador to US Gary Doer to end Canada’s commercial seal hunt. Please use THIS FORM to send a message to Gary Doer urging him to listen to people around the world, protect seals and provide sealers with opportunities to get out of the crumbling sealing industry.

5.  Send an email thanking the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, and Belarus for passing their own seal product ban. The world was shocked when it was discovered recently the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Belarus had implemented a ban on import and export of harp seal skins.  This was a major blow to the Canadian sealing industry, as Russia was the largest purchaser of Canadian harp seal skins, representing 90% of the market for pelts.  The Canadian government is now pressuring Russia to reverse its ban.   Now is the time to send a quick message of thanks to those countries and urging them to stand firm in the face of bullying from the Canadian government.  Use THIS FORM to let them know the world stands united with them in their efforts to protect defenseless seals from a horrific fate.

Grey seal pups, Hay Island, 2010 Photo: B. Curran/ACASC

6.  Send an email to the Canadian Senate to urge protection for Grey Seals. The Senate Committee on Fisheries & Oceans is currently conducting a “study” on a proposed large-scale cull of grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  It is rumoured Canadian Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield advised the Committee he wants it to recommend a cull regardless of their findings.  Send Committee members a reminder that the decision should be made based on SCIENCE, not POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY, and no credible science supports a grey seal cull.  In fact, leading Canadian scientists strongly advise against such a cull!  Use THIS FORM to send your email to Senate Committee members.

7.  Boycott Canadian Seafood. Sealers are commercial fishermen who kill seals for a bit of extra cash in the closed season.  The Canadian government was the inspiration for the Canadian seafood boycott running successfully in the US and Europe when a government official stated it would end the commercial seal hunt when fishermen asked it to do so. Please add your name to the list of those boycotting Canadian seafood until the commercial seal hunt is ended.

This morning I received the sickening news that seal clubbers had begun bludgeoning baby seals to death in Namibia.   The slaughter had begun.

Earlier this month word had reached me about a possible deal to buyout the sealing industry being made between Francois Hugo of Seal Alert SA and Hatem Yavuz, the sole remaining buyer of Cape Fur skins. The idea was that Seal Alert SA would buy out the license and assets of Hatem Yavuz and his partners, the two concession-holders and would in effect shut down commercial sealing in Namibia. This deal was contingent on no seals being killed while the money was being raised and the consent and agreement of the Namibian government. With the killing beginning, I can only surmise that the deal has fallen through. Not surprising, considering the corruption running rampant in the Namibian government and the conniving mentality of Hatem Yavuz and his ilk. I remain unconvinced that this deal would have successfully shut down the annual killing of Cape Fur seals in Namibia. But that’s another story for another time. The entire scenario is unfortunate, as Francois has been publicly condemning those anti-sealing groups who did not sign up for the deal, accusing them of not wanting the seal slaughter to end and only being interested in lining their own pockets with donation dollars. While I can understand the frustration Francois must be feeling, I believe that by continuing with these wild accusations, he is alienating supporters, which ultimately will not help the seals. But as I said, that’s another story for another time.

I received the following release a little while ago by email. Although shocking, it is not surprising. Seal killers claim there is nothing wrong with what they do, yet they will go to great lengths to do it in secret, threatening and assaulting those who attempt to document their actions. We’ve seen it in Canada in past years – seal killers physically assault observers and when police step in, the assaulted are arrested – not the assaulters. Observers are arrested and detained and incriminating footage of the killing is confiscated.

Commercial seal killing is coming to an end throughout the world. The Namibian seal hunt which has been given little public attention in past years has come to the forefront this year and opposition is rapidly growing against the cruel slaughter that threatens the very survival of the Cape Fur seal. This is why government and seal clubbers have taken such brutal action against the two journalists attempting to document the killing.

Seal Alert-SA, Media Release, 16 July 2009

Namibian Sealers turn Clubs on undercover Film-makers

Details are sketchy. In Namibia near or around Cape Cross Seal Colony today at 7am, Namibian seal pup clubbers, were filmed killing seal pups. For which they have no permit to harvest. Namibian seal clubbers then assaulted the film-crew. A South African well known film-maker Bart Smithers and a Jim Wickens of Eco-storm, a British citizen. They were beaten up by the sealers, and then arrested and put in police custody in a vehicle. It has been further reported sealers then club into the Police vehicle and further beat up the film-makers. Both are now being held at the Police Station in Henties Bay.

The British High Commission in Namibia has been contacted. The release of the men has been called for.

A British investigative journalist and his South African fixer have today been violently assaulted by seal hunters and arrested by police whilst documenting the controversial Namibian seal cull.

Jim Wickens, a reporter with the Brighton-based Ecostorm agency, and Bart Smithers, a freelance cameraman and fixer,  were this morning attacked by a group of seal hunters armed with clubs before having their video camera equipment stolen in the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Western Namibia.

The team, working with Dutch NGO Bontvoordieren, are understood to have been filming the killing of seals for some twenty minutes before a group of hunters approached and assaulted them – reportedly punching them to the ground and hitting them with clubs.  

Their cameras and video footage were also seized in the incident, which happened about 7am this morning.

Police subsequently arrived before arresting the pair on suspicion of trespass and obstruction.

According to Jim Wickens, a seal hunter again attacked them whilst they were being held in a police vehicle.

They pair are currently being held at a local police station.

Andrew Wasley, co-director of Ecostorm, said: “We are at present working with the British High Commission in Namibia to establish the full picture and secure the release of our team. Clearly this was a violent and unwarranted attack on two journalists doing their job – gathering information and pictures of the highly secretive Namibian seal hunt.”

He continued: “As well as calling for the immediate release of Jim Wickens and Bart Smithers we want the Namibian authorities to investigate the assaults and theft of equipment” 

Bontvoordieren – and a growing number of international campaigners – are calling for the immediate release of the pair from police custody.  


Andrew Wasley (Ecostorm)  +44 (0)7977 239406 info@eco-storm.com
Claudia Linssen (Bontvoordieren)  +31 206766600 info@bontvoordieren.nl

For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
27-21-790 8774

Photo courtesy Seal Alert-SA

Cape fur seals read and approve agreement. Photo courtesy Seal Alert-SA

Very good news awaited me as I did my usual morning Google news search while sipping my morning coffee. The slaughter of Namibian Cape fur seals, slated to begin on July 1st, has been potentially put on hold for two weeks while talks continue with a view to selling the sealing industry to a South African seal rescue organization.

The Namibian seal slaughter is now the largest commercial seal hunt in the world. It is a horrendously cruel slaughter, targeting babies still nursing their mothers’ milk. The nursing young are the primary target, as their fur is usually the most valuable. Older bulls are the secondary target, as seal penis is still popular in Asia as an aphrodiasiac. The pups are bludgeoned with clubs and then stabbed through the chest or heart and left to die a slow and agonizing death. The larger bulls are shot.

The news story states that Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA was approached this week by Hatem Yavuz Group, the sole remaining buyer of Namibia’s seal skins, with the suggestion that he and the remaining sealers be bought out. Talks are underway between the parties, and Francois Hugo is interested in bringing on board the Dutch government, which had been instrumental in securing the EU ban; De Beers, which had expressed its displeasure with the culling of seals; and potential financiers.  According to Francois Hugo, however, the two-week delay is not as straightforward as it seems.  He must have firm proof he can raise the $14 million US needed by Wednesday, July 1st.  If he accomplishes this, and the sealers agree, they will put the slaughter on hold for two weeks while he raises the money.  If he cannot offer proof of $14 million US in pledges, the sealers say they will begin butchering Cape fur seals on July 1st, claiming that China has indicated interest in purchasing a large number of skins.

Francois Hugo with rescued seal. Photo courtesy Seal Alert-SA

Francois Hugo with rescued seal. Photo courtesy Seal Alert-SA

This is slightly confusing.  If China is interested in purchasing a large quantity of Cape fur skins, as sealers claim, then why are sealers and the current remaining buyer in Australia saying it is no longer financially feasible for them to continue with the slaughter and they are interested in a buyout from the rescue organization?

Regardless, this could be very good news for Cape fur seals in Namibia and action must be taken by seal-lovers worldwide to help make this happen. The last remaining buyer of Namibia seal skins has admitted it could not sell any of the seal products from last year’s slaughter, and the two concessionaires has indicated it is no longer viable for them to continue in the crumbling industry.

The tides are turning for seals worldwide. Russia recently banned the killing of seals under one year of age. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denounced it as a “bloody industry” which should have been banned a long time ago. Russia’s Natural Resources Minister, Yury Trutnyev, called seal hunting “one of the most inhumane types of hunting in the world, which is banned in the vast majority of developed states.” In May the European Parliament voted to ban trade in seal products within the 27 member states. The Canadian commercial seal kill which ended this week resulted in landings well below the 2009 quota due to lack of buyers and non-existent markets. Now the sole remaining buyer of Namibian Cape fur seal skins is admitting it could not sell any products last year and the two companies holding sealing licenses have indicated they want out of the failing industry.

But this deal won’t be reached without financial assistance. It is reportedly going to take $14 million US to buyout the Namibian sealing industry and Francois is asking for donations on his website.  Apparently he needs to receive this much in pledges by Wednesday, July 1st or sealers will begin killing Namibian seal pups.  Please visit his organization’s website for more info on how you can pledge your financial support to save the lives of thousands of Cape fur seals in Namibia.

Francois Hugo appeared on the radio show ‘Seals of Namibia’ on  last night on WFLF Endangered Stream Live.  The show is being re-broadcast today at 12:00 pm PST.  Please tune in at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wflfendangeredstreamlive