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August 31, 2011

Wanted: Alive, Not Dead (UK release)

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

Humane Society International/United Kingdom

  • Pups are killed for their fur. Hansjoerg Richter/istock

LONDON—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 also concludes that the annual Namibian seal slaughter poses a major risk to the far more lucrative seal watching tourism industry.

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?”

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 Namibian seal hunt generated only £300,000, a poor comparison to seal watching which netted £1.2 million in direct tourism expenditure in the same period.

“Each year, up to 85,000 baby 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,” said Claire Bass, WSPA International oceans campaign leader. “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 clubbed to death the next morning. There is a clear economic case for the government to protect these animals.”

The 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 as their penises are sold in Asian markets for alleged aphrodisiac qualities, for approximately £85 per kilogram. The seal pups are killed for their fur, with each pelt sold for as little as £3.50. 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.

“The Namibian authorities have long defended the seal slaughter on the grounds that it generates money and jobs, but this report shows that it could actually be damaging to the economy”, said Mark Jones, executive director of Humane Society International/UK. “We call upon the government of Namibia to end the cruel slaughter of baby seals for their fur, and act in the best interest of its citizens and the seals, by promoting seal watching as a viable and sustainable economic alternative.”

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 £2 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.

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 every day 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. Those who venture away from the viewing platform can often find bloodstained sand.

“The Namibian seal hunt is clearly not sustainable.” said Mark Glover, director of Respect for Animals. “This report points to eco tourism as a long-term and highly consistent way forward for this beautiful part of the world.”

The hunts have been deliberately hidden from tourists’ view for years but as they become increasingly exposed via the media and internet there’s a significant risk that wildlife-loving tourists will find it distasteful to visit these doomed seals on their holidays, which would be disastrous for Namibian eco-tour companies.

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Humane Society International is the international arm of The Humane Society of the United States, one of the world's largest animal protection organizations—backed by 11 million people. HSI is creating a better future for animals and people through advocacy, education, and hands-on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide—On the Web at hsi.org.

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

Respect for Animals is the UK’s leading anti-fur organisation. Dedicated to campaigning against the cruel and unnecessary international fur, Respect for Animals has an impressive record of achievement. www.respectforanimals.co.uk

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