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Ombudsman meeting in Windhoek

posted Sep 21, 2011, 11:20 AM by Pat Dickens   [ updated Feb 23, 2012, 7:58 AM ]
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On the 20th September 2011, "The Seals of Nam" was fortunate enough to make representation to the Ombudsman of Namibia at a stakeholders meeting regarding the legalities of the annual seal harvest, exploitation of the living natural resources and the method of killing seals in Namibia.
 Interested parties from around the world converged at The Safari Court Hotel and Conference Center in Windhoek, the Namibian capital. 

"The Seals of Nam" was honoured to share the stage with some really big names. Those in attendance included Sheryl Fink, the director of the seal program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, (IFAW) Peter Edwards (of Dawson, Edwards and Associates) who made legal representation on behalf of World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) the NSPCA and also Seal-Alert South Africa; Nikki Botha, founder and CEO of The South African Seal Saving Initiative (SASSI) Steve Roest (CEO of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society) and his colleague Laurens de Groot (European Director of Operations for Sea Shepherd) Dr. Debbie Gibson (SPCA Namibia) and of course, Pat Dickens, founder and campaign manager of "The Seals of Nam." Bart Smithers, who captured the You-tube footage, was also there and shared his hair raising experiences with us. Sadly, Mr. Smithers was not allocated a slot to speak and the ombudsman dismissed his request to make representation. 

The proponents of the slaughter comprised of representatives from Seal Products (Pty) Ltd based in Namibia as well as those from The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. Conspicuous in their absence was The Ministry of Environmental Affairs, who, although allocated a slot, did not even bother to attend. "The Seals of Nam" is disappointed that the representative from Seal Products (Pty) Ltd offered nothing in terms of fact and rather focused his attentions on lambasting top international organizations with childish racist rhetoric. By the same token, the representative from the Ministry of Fisheries appeared to be quite clueless. In fact, a ridiculous statement issued by way of a full page advert in the media goes so far as to state that... 

"The seal species Arctocephalus Pusillus (Cape Fur Seal) in Namibia is NOT endangered. These seals are listed on appendix II of CITES, not because they are endangered, but because they look like arctocephalus Townsendi and seals in the families otariidae and phocidae which are endangered in other areas of the world."

In our opinion that is the equivalent of saying African Elephants are listed on CITES not because they are endangered but because the look like Indian Elephants. What absolute tripe!! The two species are completely different animals altogether. They have different diets, live in different hemispheres, have different breeding habits...Sadly predictable.

Interested parties who were not allocated a slot but were there to observe included several representatives from the Namibian Tourism industry. 

The case against the annual massacre is simply overwhelming and it is our steadfast opinion that this barbaric, savage and iniquitous practice has no place in modern society. Not only is this an animal rights issue, but the exploitation of human beings, desperate to earn a living, simply cannot be condoned in any manner or form. To deny these workers a viable and economically rewarding alternative is an injustice that borders on the extreme. 

Advocate John Walters, the Namibian Ombudsman, assured us of transparency, his impartiality and that all submissions would receive his due and diligent attentions. There are however several areas that "The Seals of Nam" are not comfortable with and these are listed below. 
  •  30 minutes allocated was barely enough time to even begin to scratch the surface of the issues.
  • The media was not allowed.
  • The proceedings were not allowed to be filmed. We feel in the interest of transparency, both the media and filming should have been a fundamental requirement.
  • Participants are not able to have access to other submissions. For all we know, the proponents of the harvest could be submitting (probably have) irrefutable lies with information that is grossly inaccurate. If the ombudsman is relying on false information, any decision he makes will be biased and based on untruths. How are we guaranteed the information submitted is factual and correct? 
  • There was no specific date set for when we can expect a decision. The ombudsman did mention before 20/09/2012. This would allow the Namibian Government another season in which to carry out their bloody business.
  • Although the issue was raised, the ombudsman did not commit to a moratorium on all sealing activities until such stage as he has reached his decision. Does this mean that while we have clearly shown the massacre to be not only unsustainable, but illegal to boot, the Namibian government will be given free reign to pursue their criminal activities for an indeterminate period?
  • No allowance was made for discussions or to question the various representatives. 
While we are cautiously optimistic and are grateful to the ombudsman for convening the meeting, we have our reservations that the slaughter is not yet over. What we did come to realise was that our boycott has certainly got the tourism industry very rattled. When the petition with over ten thousand signatures was produced, you could literally see their eyes opening and their jaws dropping. At that stage, the attention was so focussed, you could have heard a pin drop. 

What we can assure you is that we have absolutely no intention of letting this rest. We will continue to heap international pressure on Namibia until such stage as the slaughter is finally ended. It is up to the Government of Namibia to decide how ugly they want it to become.

Attached is both our speech to the ombudsman as well as the powerpoint presentation.

Thanks to all for your continued support.

For information on Namibia's brutal seal hunt, click HERE
Pat Dickens,
Sep 22, 2011, 1:32 AM
Pat Dickens,
Sep 22, 2011, 1:29 AM