- It is the ultimate form of extreme holiday 'fun'. Tourists,
bored with SAS survival weekends, trekking trips in the Antarctic and booking
space flights with Richard Branson, will soon be able to fly to Norway
- and shoot baby seals.
- The decision to launch the vacations - which have aroused
the fury of animal rights groups - follows the recent move by the Norwegian
government to expand its annual culling of seals so that amateur enthusiasts
can join in.
- The aim is to bring about a dramatic increase in the
number of deaths of seals, which are blamed by fishermen for devastating
drops in the North Sea marine stocks. But the effect has been to outrage
- 'Killing a baby seal is about the easiest thing you can
do if you're inclined to be sadistic; you certainly can't say there's any
sport in it - the animal is totally defenceless,' said Paul Watson, founder
and president of the radical Sea Shepherd group.
- The expansion of Norway's seal cull comes into force
in January, following intense lobbying by fishermen, who say the country's
large seal population is not only devastating cod and other fish stocks
but is infecting other marine life with parasites.
- Companies are already offering holidays to both experienced
hunters and beginners to take advantage of this relaxation of rules. NorSafari
is advertising on the internet for trips that start at 1,400 kroner - about
£110 - for a day's hunting and one seal. This rises to 8,200 kroner,
or £650, for four days and the guarantee of two seals.
- The company's website shows photos of hunters posing
with their kill and offers trips that not only include accommodation and
food but help with cutting up and preserving seal carcasses. Training is
available for beginners, it adds.
- Some packages offer a refund to disappointed hunters
who don't kill the advertised catch. Extra seals shot will cost another
500 kroner, while another company, Polar Events, advertises: 'We will make
sure that your hunt is one not soon forgotten.'
- Professional seal hunters have traditionally used clubs
to kill seals, but Polar Events' boss, Kjetil Kristoffersen, said tourists
would be given rifles to hunt their prey.
- 'Seals have been hunted in Norway for many years and
it's part of the culture,' said Kristoffersen. 'We want people who are
interested in hunting, not people who just come to shoot the animal...
the tradition up here in Norway [is] we hunt the seal to eat it; it's food.'
- Animal rights activists and conservation groups fear
that helpless baby seals will become the prime, easy targets of tourists.
They also warn that seals are in danger of being over-hunted.
- Seal hunting has been a tradition in Norway for thousands
of years, but has dwindled recently with only about half the annual 1,200
quota being killed each year. Despite this, under pressure from fishermen
the quota was raised to more than 2,000 a couple of years ago.
- The decision to include tourists in a practice which,
until now has been confined to local experts, is designed to help meet
- Announcing the plan, Norway's Fisheries Minister, Svein
Ludvigsen, said the move would 'restore the balance' between fish and seals
along Norway's coast and claimed that the hunting of seals was no different
from hunting moose. Others liken the practice to hunting foxes, big game
or even fish and birds. 'This could be a big hit,' added the minister,
whose father was a trawler captain.
- This optimism is not shared by many others outside Norway,
however, and last week the government appeared to be backing down from
its enthusiastic endorsement of seal-hunting holidays on its shores. Ministers
worry that the move, even if popular with hunters, will damage the country's
image for the majority of tourists.
- 'This is certainly not an image we are keen to be portrayed
with,' said Eirik Bergesen, an information adviser for the Norwegian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, although he stressed that 'for ordinary hunting you
can come to Norway and hunt, so what we're doing is actually bringing the
rules for seal hunting in accordance with those other hunting laws and
- Vacation in the great outdoors! The fresh air! The crimson
- The idea of the holidays was also attacked by the International
Fund for Animal Welfare. 'Tourists should be encouraged to enjoy and protect
wild animals in their natural habitat rather than kill them,' said spokeswoman
- Some campaigners have disputed the fishermen's claims
that there is a link between seals and the decline in fish stocks. 'That's
never been scientifically proven,' added Maren Esmark, marine conservation
officer for the Norwegian branch of wildlife charity WWF.
- Some argue that over-fishing is the cause of devastated
fish stocks. Seals, they point out, have happily coexisted with other marine
life for most of their history.
- 'Our position is more seals, more fish,' said Watson.
'The biggest predator of fish like cod is other fish - and seals keep fish
like that in check.'
- So far, it is unclear how popular the hunts will prove
with visitors, however. Polar Events has had no overseas bookings yet.
But the website for NorSafari says 'many of the people we have spoken to
would like to come to Norway to go seal hunting. Already there is sufficient
interest for us to invite hunters to an exciting hunt.' And the Norwegian
Hunting and Fishing Association told Jeger (Hunter) magazine there was
expected to be interest abroad, especially from Germany.
- Other tasteless trips
- Iraq: thrill-seeking travellers visit the war zones
- US: trophy-hunters shoot old zoo animals such as lions
and elephants, sometimes when they are chained up
- Africa: safari hunters compete to shoot the most big
game - often including endangered species
- Britain: tour company offers the chance to sleep rough
like a homeless person
- Norway: trippers spend a day whale-watching ... then
tuck into whale steak for supper
- Faroe Islands: visitors go out in boats to watch local
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