July 1, 2009

Animal Rights Activist Try To Stop Seal Hunt

In an attempt to save thousands of baby seals from being killed for their fur, Namibia animal rights activists are trying to raise millions of dollars to buy out a fur company that buys the pelts.

The annual seal-harvesting season officially started on Wednesday with a quota of 85,000 pups to be killed.  The hunters club the animals to death on the Namibian coast as part of the hunt.

"I got the offer from the Australian-based owner Hatem Yavuz to buy out his company for 14.2 million US dollars by mid-July and I have started an international online appeal to raise the funds," Francois Hugo of Seal Alert South Africa, a seal rehabilitation centre, told AFP by telephone from Cape Town.

"I have placed the plea on YouTube and Facebook over the weekend requesting individuals worldwide to pledge 15 dollars each until the target is reached and many offers have already reached us," Hugo added.

"Hatem Yavuz even offered to delay for two weeks the culling of the Cape Fur Seal pups and the shooting of 6,000 bulls by his Namibian partner companies which were allocated the quotas," Hugo added.

He said that Yavuz's original deadline was set last Friday to raise the money by July 1, but it was too short a deadline.

An official in the Namibian fisheries ministry decided the season would start on Wednesday as agreed.

The ministry set a quote of 85,000 seal pups and 6,000 bulls in 2007 for each year, keeping Namibia's total seal population at about 850,000 animals.

In China, people like to use bull testicles for traditional medicines.

Over 3,200 online signatures were gathered through Facebook by late Tuesday, along with a number of signatures gathered by an Australian animal rights group, to petition the fur company owner to stop buying seal pelts from Namibia.

The European Union banned imports and exports of all seal products in May throughout all the 27 member states.

The animals thrive on a group of Atlantic islands off a southern African coast known as "skeleton coast." 

Animal rights groups have been actively trying to stop the annual Namibian seal hunt for close to a decade.