THERE is no less cruel method to cull seal pups than to club them, Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Abraham Iyambo said yesterday, calling on local and international experts and animal welfare groups to propose better methods.
Speaking at a "question and answer session" organised by the Ministry, Iyambo said the best way to "harvest" Cape Fur Seals was by clubbing the little pups on the head.
"The big bulls are shot with a gun, but seal pups cannot be shot as they have soft skulls and the bullets might penetrate other parts of their bodies as well or even hit pups close to them when shot at close range," Iyambo said.
The Minister's interaction with the media followed international protests last weekend by animal rights organisations which condemned the culling of some 85 000 seal pups and 6 000 bulls at Cape Cross, a famous tourist attraction and among the largest seal colonies in the world.
The quota includes smaller seal colonies on small islands off Luederitz.
"The quota for pups was increased this year from 65 000 in 2005," Iyambo said yesterday.
Only pups aged between seven and nine months were culled.
"I prefer to use the term 'harvesting a natural resource', not culling," he added.
Cabinet approved the seal quota during its latest meeting.
The major concern of the animal welfare groups was the way the seal pups were killed, according to the Fisheries Minister, not so much the fact that Namibia's seal population had to be controlled.
Three companies have contracts for the culling season, which started this month and will end on November 15.
They employ about 150 people.
The South African organisation Seal Alert SA has condemned the Namibian Government for "slaughtering seals".
On its website, it appealed for the entire exercise to be stopped.
The International Organisation for Animal Protection (OIPA), on its website, has a petition to Minister Iyambo asking him to intervene.
"The opposition to Namibia's seal hunt is truly global, OIPA International, its 138 members league and all the delegations through the world condemn the seal killing (seals killed with one strike to the head and a quick stab in the heart with a long knife) in Namibia as cruel, inhumane and barbaric," said Paola Ghidotti, director for international relations at OIPA.