Renowned Rock and Rock Hall of Fame inductee, drummer Matt Sorum, most notably of iconic rock bands Guns ‘n Roses, Velvet Revolver and The Cult, has expressed alarm upon learning of Namibia’s ‘dark secret’ — the Cape Fur Seal hunt, set to begin July 1. Sorum was informed of the world’s largest and most brutal mass slaughter of marine mammals by marine conservation non-profit, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA. He is currently touring South Africa with the supergroup Kings of Chaos, playing to sold-out audiences in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Sorum, a dedicated conservationist and philanthropist, and a devoted animal lover, supports several animal protection organizations to make a difference for wildlife. He also has his own foundation, Adopt The Arts, whose mission is to keep the arts in public education.
“I’m appalled to learn of the Cape Fur Seal slaughter which begins next month,” said Sorum. “These animals are supposed to be protected by law and live in a designated reserve. There is a great deal of money that could be made in Namibia by conserving these animals, like the ones here in Hout Bay, for the enjoyment of tourists,” he said. Killing off these so-called protected seals is brutal and short-sighted and eventually will deplete them for future generations,” he added.
Each year, from July 1 through November 15, up to 85,000 Cape Fur Seal pups are beaten to death in Namibia for their fur pelts. Terrified pups are rounded up, separated from their mothers, and clubbed to death with pick handles. Often they are stabbed in the heart and skinned while still alive. Another 6,000 adult bull seals will also be slaughtered. They will be shot at point blank range so that their genitalia can be exported to Asian markets, to be used to make aphrodisiacs, mistakenly believed to enhance a man’s virility.
The hunt is inhumane, unsustainable, illegal, and unethical. Perhaps most disturbing of all is that the killing takes place in what is supposed to be a designated and protected seal reserve. The clubbing begins daily at 6:00 am. By 9:00 am, the lifeless bodies of hundreds of seal pups are gathered up — their mothers screaming in distress — as bulldozers turn over the bloody sand and clean up the beach before tourists arrive to view the colony. The clandestine hunt also violates Namibia’s own Animal Protection and Marine Resources Act.
Commercial hunters hire approximately 160 part-time workers to club the seals, most of the pups are clubbed to death at only six months of age. Both Canada and Russia have banned the practice of clubbing baby seals that are still nursing or are less than one year of age, as they are still very dependent upon their mothers. Namibia has set no such restrictions despite the fact pup birth rates decline with each passing year.
On June 5, 2013, South Africa’s Member of Parliament Meriam Phaliso expressed that “the (South African) government should consider allowing the harvesting of Cape Fur Seals as a means of job creation to compensate for several fisheries that have collapsed through overfishing.” Phaliso went on to comment that seals are “the biggest poachers of some of the fish and nobody is arresting them...seals are a job-creating mechanism that can put food on the tables in some areas.”
Sea Shepherd USA’s Administrative Director Susan Hartland responded by saying, "The only poachers in this scenario are the greedy humans who are destroying oceanic wildlife beyond repair. Labeling seals as poachers doesn’t even make logical sense, seals don’t shop at the neighborhood supermarket for their meals; they rely on a staple diet of wild caught fish — fish we’ve selfishly taken away from them, humans are the ones that are overfishing the oceans at an alarming rate.” Hartland wholeheartedly agrees the seals are a “job-creating mechanism” but this is “largely because seals are a highly sought-after species, attracting eco-tourism to the region for camera safaris and the like. Studies have shown that a living seal, much like other marine species, is more valuable than a dead one,” she added.
Indeed, the Government of Namibia believes the sealing industry creates jobs in its impoverished nation, but a recent study has confirmed the seals generate far more income alive than dead. In 2008, the hunt generated £320,000, whereas the eco-tourism activity of seal watching netted £1.3 million of direct tourism expenditures. Namibia is the only country in the Cape Fur Seal’s range in which commercial hunting is permitted.
The cull is driven primarily by one man, Hatem Yavuz, who holds the contract to buy the pelt of every Namibian Cape Fur Seal clubbed to death until 2019. He pays just $7 a pelt but will eventually sell his seal coats for up to $35,000 each, indicating that there are still people out there who are willing to ignore the cruelty and environmental impact behind their fur coats. He is getting rich while local Namibian workers are paid far less than minimum wage and largely live in poverty. Clearly, only a handful of individuals are becoming wealthy from the cull, leaving behind environmental destruction for future generations.
Sea Shepherd has campaigned in Namibia since 2011 using undercover teams and drones to monitor the Cape Fur Seal slaughter. Sea Shepherd’s work to defend the seals was chronicled in a one–hour documentary about the seal cull titled, “Seal Wars,” which aired in June of 2012 on Animal Planet.
Operation Desert Seal
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