Disturbing video of an annual seal culling in Namibia reveals Cape fur seal pups being driven into a gauntlet of men who bludgeon the seals to death with what appear to be pick ax handles.
The video, taken by the Earthrace Conservation group in 2011 and released to the public Thursday, was shot on the beach of Atlas Bay, purportedly early enough in the morning that the evidence of the culling could be cleaned up before tourists arrived at the beach later in the day.
"At 6 a.m., the clubbing begins. Then, at 9 a.m. each morning, bulldozers clean up and restore the beach before the tourists arrive to view the colony, because all of this happens in a designated seal reserve," a spokesperson from the Netherlands-based conservation group told The Guardian.
Culling seals in legal in Namibia. In July of each year a five-month season begins; Namibia's Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources allow as many as 90,000 seals pups to be killed. In addition, between 5,000 and 6,000 bull seals are permitted to killed for their genitalia, which is exported to Asia where many believe the organ can be used as an aphrodisiac, Earthrace Conservation reports.
Namibia is the only country in the Cape fur seal's native range that allows commercial hunting of the animals. Namibia and Canada are the only countries in the world where annual, major seal culling is legal. Cape fur seals, Arctocephalus pusillus, are also known as brown fur seals.
Earthrace Conservation reports that the annual cull employs about 100 people and generates about $500,000 in revenue. The conservation group contends that more-stable employment and more revenue could be generated by abolishing the cull and instead using the seals as a selling point for eco-tourism operations.
"It makes no ecological sense as Cape fur seals are already under threat from further mass die-offs, continual deaths from entanglement in fishing gear, illegal shooting by fisherman, and bad fisheries management leading to scarcity of food," said Earthrace Conservation founder Pete Bethune in a statement.
"It's time for the Namibian Government to wake up and start using Cape Fur seals as the precious eco-system and eco-tourism resource that they are, instead of shedding their blood on the sand."
"Until they stop this brutality, we urge people to boycott Namibia as a holiday destination."
The footage in the video below is graphic.
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