Assessing the hunting practices of Namibia's commercial seal hunt

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South African Journal of Science

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University of Cape Town

Following mounting public concerns regarding the treatment of animals in recent years, there has been increasing interest in the development of science-based guidelines for animal welfare in industries such as agriculture and hunting.1,2,3 In the latter case, for example, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was requested by the European Commission, in 2007, to issue a scientific opinion regarding welfare aspects of seal hunting and to assess the most appropriate killing methods, to reduce unnecessary suffering. As part of its assessment, EFSA's Scientific opinion4 compared seal hunting to the killing of livestock in abattoirs. It noted that while slaughter conditions vary considerably, the goal should be the same: to kill animals with the minimum amount of pain, distress and fear and without causing any avoidable suffering. The report concluded that there was strong evidence that effective killing is not always practiced during seal hunts and that unnecessary and avoidable pain and suffering occurs. Subsequently, Russia ended its commercial hunt for harp seals Pagophilus groenlandicus in the White Sea in February 20095 and banned the killing of all seals under the age of one year in March of 2009.6Two months later, the European Parliament voted 550-49 in favour of a resolution banning the importation of seal hunt products, which comes into effect in 2010.7 Canada and Norway have subsequently lodged challenges against the EU ban with the World Trade Organization.