Intergroup study trip to Namibia

On 08/11/2013, in All posts, by Animal Welfare Intergroup

618At the end of October, an Intergroup delegation constituted of Dan Jørgensen MEP, Sidonia Jędrzejewska MEP, Janusz Wojciechowski MEP, Andrea Zanoni MEP, Hanna Wojciechowska, Maciej Wojciechowski, Karolina Tomaszewka, Karl Bang and Andreas Erler went on a study trip to Namibia which had the three-fold aim to visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund- CCF, an internationally recognized centre of excellence in the conservation of cheetahs and their ecosystems, to learn about livestock farming in this country and to meet with Namibian Government officials and MPs to discuss animal welfare and conservation issues such as the hunting of Cape fur seals.

The delegation has visited the Cheetah Conservation Fund following an invitation by Dr Laurie Marker, the Executive Director of the CCF who had given a memorable presentation about strategies for cheetah conservation in its natural habitat at an Intergroup meeting in October 2012.

Namibia hosts the largest remaining wild cheetah population. The majority of cheetah live outside of protected areas on livestock farms were they are frequently hunted, trapped and killed by the farmers who perceive them as a threat to their livestock and game. The Cheetah Conservation Fund uses a holistic approach to saving the cheetahs that includes teaching farmers ways to prevent predation of their livestock, educating people about the importance of predators in a functioning ecosystem and restoring and opening up habitat for cheetah and their prey. Their successful conservation programme has become a model which is now applied also in other range countries of the cheetah. Wolf conservationists in France and Norway are envisaging to applying a similar conservation programme for the expanding wolf populations and to prevent predation of livestock.

Cattle and game farming is an important sector for Namibia’s economy. The extensive livestock farming conditions in the vast grasslands of the country allow the production of high quality beef which is exported also to the European Union. The delegation had the opportunity to visit the Meat Corporation of Namibia -Meatco which is a meat processing and marketing entity for premium quality products that are marketed under the brand “Natures Reserve”. The meat products are traceable from farm to fork and are all halal even though pre-cut stunning is applied. All farms providing cattle to the corporation have to be accredited to a farm assurance scheme which sets high quality standards including animal welfare requirements. Even though Meatco serves just a high quality niche market it is a good example for EU regulations being applied in third countries.

The meetings with Namibian Government officials in Windhoek which have been kindly set up by the Delegation of the European Union to Namibia focused among other issues on the hunting of Cape Fur seals. Each year, the Namibian government is authorizing the killing of 80.000 Cape fur seal pups (killed for their pelts) and 6.000 Cape fur seal bulls (killed for their genitals). Together with Canada and Norway, Namibia has filed a WTO challenge against the EU Regulation prohibiting the sale of seals products in the European Union.

The Intergroup delegation was therefore eager to know more about seal hunting in Namibia and to express its concerns about the cruel killings of these animals. Following an official complaint by several animal welfare organisations such as IFAW and WSPA the Namibian Ombudsman, John Walters has drafted a report which comes to the conclusion that seal harvest in Namibia is sustainable and not in contravention with CITES. The report gives though EFSA based recommendations regarding less cruel killing practices which should be included in the relevant legislation applying to sealing. Moreover the Ombudsman report asks for independent monitoring.

During a meeting with Bernhard Esau, the Namibian Minister for Fisheries he confirmed us that the law relating to seal harvesting will be amended taking into account the recommendations made by the Namibian Ombudsman. The Ministry rejects though the recommendation for allowing independent monitoring of the seal hunts.

The Intergroup delegation inquired whether it would be feasible to find different sources of incomes for people working in the sealing industry, notably in the tourism sector. The answer of the Minister was that too many livelyhoods depend on sealing and that tourism is currently not a real alternative given the adverse climatic conditions on the Namibian coast and the absence of investors who could foster a more developed tourism industry.

Last but not least, the delegation visited as the Krumhuk farm near Windhoek which applies organic farming practices and runs the Agricultural Training Centre Krumhuk (ATCK). It is the only agricultural institution in Namibia geared to offer vocational training (academic and practical) in various aspects of sustainable agriculture and farm household management that is both appropriate and relevant to the Namibian agricultural environment.


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