Bernard Esau

Hatem Yavuz, primary license holder, sponsors the killing of Cape fur seals.

Bernard Esau, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Oversees Namibia’s Cape fur seal massacre.

Every year, up to 80,000 Cape fur seal pups and up to 6,000 Cape fur seal bulls are brutally killed in Namibia.

THE MASSACRE OF CAPE FUR SEALS IN NAMIBIA IS HAPPENING NOW

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WHO

The killers: 10 – 15 unskilled, poorly paid, seasonally employed Namibian men
The processors: 80 – 110 unskilled to low-skilled, poorly paid laborers
The overseers: The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, led by Bernard Esau
The concession holders: These are the businessmen who pay the Namibian government for licenses to trade in seal skins and other seal products (such as seal oil and seal penises from the adult bulls). Hatem Yavuz, a Turkish-Australian furrier has been a license holder for years. There have been 3 to 5 others in various years. In 2009, after the EU ban on seal product imports and the stockpiling of 20,000 unsold seal skins, Hatem Yavuz offered South African seal rescuer Francois Hugo the ‘opportunity’ to buy him out over the next decade, at a price of US$14 million. Hugo was not able to raise the money due in part to the concern that others could take the place of Hatem and continuing the killing.

WHAT

Every day, for 139 days each year, nursing Cape fur seal pups are separated from their mothers, rounded up on the Namibian beaches where they are born (which are considered seal ‘reserves’), and clubbed and stabbed to death early each morning, before tourists arrive. The bloody sand is bulldozed to hide the evidence. Cape fur seal bulls are also shot.

This causes panic on a daily basis among the members of the seal colony. Mother seals try to escape into the ocean and sometimes abandon their pups as they panic. For the surviving seals, the chronic stress leaves them more prone to disease and malnutrition.

Seal pups are clubbed with a 1 metre wooden stick on the head and stabbed in the chest with others watching and hearing the killing. Undercover footage of the slaughter show that pups are clubbed repeatedly, before and after being stabbed in the heart. Pups have been found breathing after being clubbed and stabbed. Footage shows them vomiting up freshly drunk mothers’ milk in shock, before, during and after being clubbed and stabbed. Footage shows the pups’ chests being cut open while they are still alive.

As many as 600 pups are clubbed and stabbed each day. In addition, as many as 200 bull seals per day are shot with rifles for their genitalia, which are considered aphrodisiacs in Asia. These clubbers are unskilled, untrained, low-paid Namibian men.

WHERE

The massacre of Cape fur seals takes place in three of the largest seal ‘reserves’ along the coast of Namibia: Cape Cross, Atlas Bay, and Wolf Bay. These reserves are three of the largest breeding colonies of Cape fur seals. They are also tourist attractions.

WHEN

The slaughter of Cape fur seals occurs from the beginning of July to the middle of November each year, or until the quota is filled or concession holders decide to discontinue the killing.

WHY

Concession holders purchase the rights to the seal pups in order to process their skins into fur coats and other garments and their blubber into seal oil (sold as a ‘health food supplement’). They purchase the rights to the bulls for their genitalia, which are considered aphrodisiacs in some Asian countries.

The government of Namibia permits this slaughter as a jobs program, even though it supports only about 120 jobs, mostly seasonal and all low-paid. Sometimes the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources says that the seals must be killed to protect fish stocks; however, he allows fishing quotas to exceed the amounts recommended by fisheries scientists.

Independent observation of the killing is prohibited. Only government sanctioned agents may observe the slaughter, when the officials permit it. Photo-journalists have been arrested when trying to film the killing. The Cape Cross Nature Reserve, one of the seal reserves where the killing takes place, is patrolled by armed guards.

Mnet Television production Carte Blanche produced evidence of random clubbing of all age groups of seals, by secretly filming the killing. Bont voor Dieren and Earthrace obtained footage secretly in recent years.

The government of Namibia says that observation is allowed, on its terms.This is what government attorney M. Khupe wrote to seal rescuer Francois Hugo in response to his request to document the killing:

“The Ministry generally has no objection to your client’s observation of the “harvesting process” but will only allow it on terms acceptable to it. Our client’s position is that the observation must be for the entire seal culling process, that is the pre-harvesting and harvesting processes. An observation of the entire process will enable your client to have a full and proper appreciation of the entire culling process and not a skewed view thereof, which our client is afraid will happen if your client observes the actual harvesting only. Therefore, our client is not amenable to your client observing the on-going harvesting as the entire culling process is already way on course. Our client will favorable consider your client’s observation of the entire process for the coming year and which observation, if agreed, must commence in December, 2010 (at the end of the on-going harvesting).”

In other words, only if an observer agrees to move to the seal rookery and spend every day there for a year, will the government allow him to observe the slaughter at any time during the months of July to November.

New Zealand-based organization Earthrace and Dutch organization Bont voor Dieren , along with the British investigative news agency, Ecostorm, independently conducted undercover investigations. Jim Wickens and Bart Smithers, of the latter two organizations, filmed sealing at or near the Cape Cross seal colony in 2009. They were assaulted by the clubbers and then arrested. Their equipment was also stolen. Nevertheless, they retained some footage.