Hatem Yavuz shows his seal-fur coat.
The Turkish businessman under pressure from animal advocates to stop hunting seals in Africa has said he is an animal lover and is willing to confront his opponents on live television.
Hatem Yavuz, the owner of the Australia-based Yavuz Group, which deals in raw skins, wool and furs, won the tender to cull close to a million seals in Namibia until 2019 and is in the process of killing 91,000 this year.
In mid-June, Yavuz agreed to a proposal from animal-rights groups to sell his companies that deal with sealskins, along with his culling license, for $14.2 million, but proceeded to start culling seal cubs on July 15 when the groups failed to come up with the money.
Yavuz, who moved to Australia from Turkey when he was three months old and currently directs the Yavuz Group, which was founded by his father, is presently holidaying in the tourist resort of Bodrum with his family.
Now the target of animal advocates, Yavuz heads what he says is one of the three largest sealskin- processing companies in the world. He has dealt with companies from Russia, South Africa, China, Chile and Namibia since going into the animal-skin-treatment business in 2001, he said, adding that the company’s biggest customers are in China, South Korea and Japan.
“Sealskins are especially popular in the Far East and the millions of seals living on Namibia’s 1,500-kilometer coastline are harming the environment there,” he said. “Namibia allows the culling of seals in order to protect the fishing sector and the environment.”
The adult male seals were killed with shotguns, Yavuz said, but the cubs were clubbed to death. “In order for them to feel less pain, they need to be killed with a club that has a nail in it,” he said.
In May of this year, the European Union banned imports and exports of all seal products in its 27 member states, including the transport of these products through EU countries to other parts of the world.
The sparsely populated southern African country of Namibia is famous for its wildlife and deserts, especially along its Atlantic “skeleton coast.” The seals live on a group of islands off the southern coast. Canada, Greenland, Namibia, Norway and Russia all cull seals there.
“Animal lovers in the EU are creating a fuss out of nothing because they also kill animals for their fur and meat,” Yavuz said.
The businessman said when the animal-rights groups first approached him, he told them his business was worth $26 million. “They said they could give me $14.25 million in exchange for me stopping seal culling and I accepted,” he said, adding that no one had come to him afterwards to provide the money.
“If I stopped the culling, the Namibian state would make someone else do it,” he said.
Yavuz, who described himself as an animal lover, also said he loves going on safaris and wears a coat made of seal fur. He also wears a necklace made out of the teeth of a white whale he had killed.