The seal hunt is now underway and the verbal violence against Canadians by anti-sealers is in full force. Personally, I have been subject to racial slurs, death threats and vicious attacks the likes of which go beyond bullying. If any aspect of the seal hunt is inhumane, it is the gross intensity of hateful vitriol from the followers of the anti-sealing movement.
Living off the land and sea, as Inuit need to do, gives us a distinct connection and perspective to our world unlike any other population. We know exactly where our food comes from -- mostly free-roaming, nutrient-dense animals. The land quite literally keeps us alive because it feeds and clothes us and often also pays our (rising) bills. It is deplorable and illogical when people, whose collective lifestyle is much less sustainable and much more comfortable than our own, cast ill-informed judgement on what we do and how we do it.
How can those who come from a world where veal and leather are disconnected from the baby cow or the slaughterhouse that they come from be so put-off by the sustainable and respectful activities of our small population struggling to survive in the world's harshest environment?
There is no science behind this cruel and opportunistic campaign to end the legitimate livelihood of sealing. Seals are plentiful, organic, free-range, and live a natural life up to the day they are harvested. The same cannot be said for industrialized agriculture.
Marine scientists tell us that the seal population is not in danger -- not by a long shot. The Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species rates seals as among species of the least concern in the world. Veterinary scientists' studies say that approved sealing techniques are as humane or more than any other method of killing an animal in a traditional slaughterhouse.
Using a tenuous and far-reaching moral argument and nothing more, the only people who are making a lucrative killing off of the seal hunt are anti-sealing campaigners whose annual revenues go into the millions. A sealer can only dream of such an income.
This may seem like a cynical opinion of people proposing to give a voice to the voiceless, but they have proven to be the greatest of tricksters -- exploiting a cause for money while silencing and starving an already marginalized population. In a world where a picture is worth 1000 words and exposure to 140 characters can count as "being informed," the dramatic images of a bloody hunt can evoke emotional responses, mostly from people living in places where "living off the land" is a foreign concept and seal meat (because the hunt is for meat and skin!) is a delicacy beyond the imaginations of their palates. Without proper context or information, they are encouraged to donate $10, $25, $35 or more to "stop the slaughter" and "save the baby seals".
I understand that PETA brings in about $30 million annually, the Humane Society of the U.S. collects more than $100 million and their executives make six-figure salaries. They and other groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare are clamouring for this easy target. Who could blame them? After all, it is good money in a competitive charitable market.
Consider Paul Watson, head of Sea Shepherd, in his own words in an interview with Barbara Frum said:
"the seal hunt has always turned a profit for animal rights groups...there are other species on the endangered species list but the seal isn't one of them...an image that goes right to the heart of people...yet there are dolphin species being slaughtered by the tuna industry off the coast of California that need saving but is not worth the money due to so much competition."
It is well-intentioned people that are carving out pieces of their budget based on misinformation and outright lies presented by anti-sealing campaigns focused on turning a profit that in turn perpetuates the poverty and marginalization of people like us.
Inuit rely on the Canadian East Coast seal hunt for its shared market dynamics and the opportunity to sell seal pelts at fair market value. Activists have known (but never acknowledged because it's bad for business) that their campaigns to make sealing evil and seal products untouchable have negatively impacted us along with other remote, coastal communities who have few other economic opportunities.
In the same way that it makes sense for Inuit and other remote communities to live off the bounty of the land, lifestyles in urban areas are necessarily different. I am not advocating that citizens of Toronto, London or LA try to hunt or fish for their food in their cities. Instead, I just ask people to inform themselves on our way of life, which includes the seal hunt, before judging. All we want is a means for survival and an economic generator that incorporates our deep respect for the land and sea and the wildlife with which we share it.
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