The Animal Edge
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|Tafline Laylin||February 28th 2012|
Every year in Namibia, 86,000 Cape Fur Seal pups are butchered to death and only one man has the contract to turn their fur into so-called fashionable apparel. The Turkish and Australia based company Hatem Yavuz named after the owner Hatem Yavuz controls roughly 60 percent of the world’s seal market and processes 130,000 seal pelts every year in his Istanbul factory. Yavuz also has a hand in the Canadian seal market and claims to be proud of what he does. In an interview that spurred a flurry of hate mail, Yavuz told 7 News in Australia that “it’s a job. If I don’t do it, someone else is going to do it.” He is called the King of Seal Killers.
Pat Dickens, founder of the Seals of Nam, a non-profit organization that has been campaigning to end Namibia’s annual seal cull on the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. A popular tourist attraction, every year between July and November the sands of the reserve are stained pink from the blood of seal pups as young as seven months old. Men with clubs and picks enter the seal colony early in the morning. The traumatized animals squeal and run away, often regurgitating their mother’s milk in terror. Their skulls are crushed and their throats slit. Several reports show that blows to their head often only render the animals unconscious. These remains are cleaned up before tourists show up in what is a heavily regulated area. Dickens has gone through all of the appropriate channels to appeal to the Namibian government to cancel its contract with Yavuz, which is valid until 2019, as it stands in direct contravention to the Animal Protection Act of 1962 that makes it unlawful to “overload, overdrive, override, ill-treat, neglect, infuriate, torture or maim or cruelly beat, kick, goad or terrify any animal.”
He appealed to the Namibian ombudsman Adv. John Walters, which speech has since been followed up with a series of delay tactics. Several animal rights organizations have become involved and Jane Goodall and other celebrities have made public statements against this terrible practice. Meanwhile, the Humane Society released a report which shows that the so-called seal-culling industry, which only employs 81 people in Namibia, benefits the Namibian economy 300 times less than live seals and eco-tourism would.
Since The Seals of Nam have not made progress “the nice way”, they have elevated the stakes of their campaign. The activist organization recently sent a formal appeal to the world’s largest tourism fair taking place in early March, ITB Berlin, to bar Namibia’s attendance, and a series of other public protests will take place throughout the world in order to increase awareness of what has become the world’s largest seal harvest. They have also called for a boycott of all major industries that contribute to Namibia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) including Namibia Breweries, De Beers, and Namibia Air. Dickens, who quit a lucrative corporate career, sold his bike, and cashed in his pension to protect Namibia’s seals from the likes of Yavuz, told Green Prophet that the Wildlife Defense Society (WDS Namibia) recently announced their official support of the boycott, despite the enormous fiscal ramifications it could have for their own country.
But the odds are stocked against the seals since the King of Seal Killers makes a lucrative living from his business. One seal fur coat sells for Aus $30,000 – “enough to buy a car,” he boasted in an interview with 7 News. And in March, 2011, Yavuz said in a written email that he would sell his fur interests for $27,3 million Euros, according to Seal Alert SA. The “tycoon” is currently embroiled in a sex scandal with the wife of Turkish billionaire Yurdal Sert’i.
Cape Fur Seals are listed as a UN-CITES Endangered Appendix II species and the United States, Mexico, the European Union, and Russia have subsequently banned all seal products in protest. If you would like to join the fight against Namibia’s annual seal harvest, please visit The Seals of Nam website and show your support.
Tafline Laylin writes for Green Prophet, from where this article is adapted.