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August 31, 2011

Wanted: Alive, Not Dead (Canada release)

New economics study confirms Namibian seal watching is worth 300 percent more than seal hunting

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Worth more to tourists than hunters. Josep Pena Llorens/istock

MONTREAL—A comprehensive study on ‘The economics of seal hunting and seal watching in Namibia’ [PDF] commissioned by international animal welfare organizations demonstrates that seals are worth far more alive than dead. Comparing the most recent figures available for both industries the report concludes that the annual Namibian seal slaughter poses a major risk to the far more lucrative seal watching tourism industry.

The report was commissioned by Bont voor Dieren (BvD), Humane Society International (HSI), Respect for Animals (RFA) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), and produced by the Australia-based independent economics consultancy Economists at Large. It reveals that in 2008, the seal hunt generated only USD$513,000 (CAD$503,000), a poor comparison to seal watching which netted USD$2 (CAD$1.97) million in direct tourism expenditure in the same period.

The economics report provides a detailed insight into the seal slaughter by examining the monetary benefits attached to each part of the trade. Bull seals account for a large proportion of the profits attached to the seal kills, as their penises are sold in Asian markets for alleged aphrodisiac qualities, at approximately USD$137 (CAD$134) per kilogram. The seal pups are killed for their fur, with each pelt sold for as little as USD$5.78 (CAD$5.67). Aside from the low income netted by the seal slaughter, the practice poses a real threat to the far more lucrative seal watching industry; large scale killing could lead to a collapse of seal populations, as witnessed in the 1990s.

Seal watching in contrast is a popular tourism activity undertaken by around 10 percent of tourists to the country—just over 100,000 in 2008. Based on current growth trends, the report predicts that by 2016 as many as 175,000 tourists will participate in seal watching, generating close to USD$3.4 (CAD$3.34) million in direct revenues. Seal watching also delivers benefits to a far wider range of Namibian society than seal killing, helping boost tourism support services such as hotels and restaurants.

WSPA ambassador Leona Lewis said: “No price would ever be high enough to justify the killing of these harmless animals. This country has so much natural beauty to offer tourists, why allow this brutal practice to tarnish its reputation forever?”

Incongruously, the seal watching takes place on the very same beaches where the killing is allowed: Cape Cross, Atlas Bay and Wolf Bay. During the hunt season, from 1 July to 15 November, hundreds of baby seals are clubbed to death between dawn and 8 a.m. at Cape Cross, a "Seal Reserve." At 10 a.m., the same beach opens as a seal watching attraction and hundreds of tourists flood in.

Quotes from organisations commissioning the report:

“Each year in Namibia, nursing baby seals are forcibly separated from their anguished mothers and beaten and stabbed to death for their fur. Fortunately, this report confirms that seal watching has the potential to contribute far more to Namibia’s economy than this outdated slaughter ever could. We urge the government of Namibia to act in the best interests of its citizens, and the seals, by ending the slaughter forever.”—Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada

“Each year, up to 85,000 seals are killed in Namibia to make just a few dollars from their furs; this report highlights that they would be worth so much more to the Namibian economy alive. Eco-tourism is a growing part of Namibia’s identity, but tourists will be shocked to find that a seal they photograph one day may be killed the next morning. There is a clear economic case for the government to protect these animals.”—Claire Bass, WSPA International oceans campaign leader


Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than 11 million members and constituents globally—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is the world’s largest alliance of animal welfare organisations, currently representing more than 1000 partners in over 150 countries. WSPA strives to create a world where animal welfare matters and animal cruelty ends. WSPA brings about change at both grassroots and governmental levels to benefit animals and has consultative status at the Council of Europe and the United Nations. www.wspa-international.org

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