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Jeansonne | August 18, 2017

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Why I Support the Seal Hunt

Why I Support the Seal Hunt

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Okay.. I suppose this post will bring out every possible PETA supporter on the planet but here goes. (That isn’t me in the photo. It is @Alethea_Aggiuq).  I wore seal skin boots, seal skin mitts, and ate seal meat. I support the seal hunt. Another way to look at that is I am against genocide and assimilation. I also support the seal hunt for environmental reasons.

Ethics are Emotionally charged

Being against the seal hunt is an emotional response and not a logical one. It would be more logical to focus efforts on species that are near extinction.  People should aim to first support endangered species in Canada or anywhere around in world. Instead, the activist voice is lost and dissipated amongst causes.  If you are logically arguing that the Inuit way of using all parts of the animal is acceptable then perhaps a better course of action is to protest domesticated animal products.  The reality too is that some of the Inuit seal hunt is commercialized.

It is okay if “THEY” hunt for subsistence

Racist Undertones:

Our words carry a history. Why do we not say “It is okay if we hunt for Subsistence” or “It is okay to kill an animal for subsistence”? Using “they” divides the argument into a context of ethics and values. They here refers to Inuit only. If a non-Inuit hunts to feed his family, his behavior is not acceptable.  The phrase isn’t “We should only consume things for subsistence”.

Some may argue well, limit the seal hunt. To me, that is patronizing. You are asking people to limit how “Inuit” they can become and keep people in poverty and dependent. It also removes the right to self-determination. Nunavut is already a reality people. Coming up with a solution for a group of people you have no connection with is patronizing, colonizing and arrogant. It echoes the dogma of residential schools and colonization. If they want to sell seal products, go ahead. Do not impose a skewed set of regulations on one group that is not on another like beef production.

There is also a disproportionate effect size of protesting and anti-seal hunts.  A few people protesting a seal hunt have a greater influence on assimilation and genocide compared to the same number protesting beef slaughter. It isn’t a blanket “well I am against killing all animals”. There is a disproportional effect: Inuit people (and a small population of Atlantic Canadians) will feel the effects far greater than a similar protest against a global fast food chain.  But perhaps some people get drunk on power and like to feel they are standing up for some animals.

Defining the Degree and Context for the “Noble Savage”

The statement is also problematic because it largely a non-Aboriginal person dictating what is acceptably “traditional”.  It is saying, you can do x as long as I approve. It says, you can’t do Y because I don’t approve.

The inference is that one group is more “educated” (into our values) and evolved.  It says to an Inuit person, you are not behaving properly as an thinking, caring, ethical person and you need to be monitored to make sure you are only doing.  It says, you can be Inuit as long as you are traditional…. because someone else knows better.  It says, your culture cannot evolve nor can you move out of poverty even f there is a sustainable opportunity.

Question: If a hunter is obese or at a certain BMI, he can’t hunt? He is now a gluttonous,  sociopathic, disgusting person who now wears furs? We are now dehumanizing the person.

There is the argument that hunting is ‘barbaric’.  Using those words reduces a culture to the image of ‘savage’ that justified incredible amounts of cruelty visited upon Aboriginal peoples. From the hunting of the Beothuk people to germ warefare (deliberate infection of small pox) to residential schools. These were Eurocentric solution to the ‘Indian’ problem: basically, a population that was in the way of railroads and the exploitation of natural resources.  It is the same line of thinking that justified residential schools so ‘we’ could show ‘them’ a better way. 

Question:  Is it in the economic interest of other countries  to keep Inuit impoverished so that they can exploit them for mining, natural resources or gain access to the Northwest Passage? 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, residential schools closed in 1996. The Inuit never had treaties either. (They did have a numbered tag they had to wear.) We have at least two generations of adults who, as children, were taken from their families and subjected to horrifying forms of abuse.  In another context, we would call it torture. Children were not permitted to speak their language. They were not allowed to practice their culture. Transgressions were punished with beatings or other physical punishments. Children were emotionally, sexually, and physically abused. Children as young as 5 years old were forcibly taken from their families. It is only recently that we are beginning to learn about the number of deaths that are in the thousands. These adults lost their connection to the land, to parenting, and to themselves. Our society as a whole is just beginning to heal from that time.  It didn’t happen in the past. It is happening now because 3rd generation children have parents who need deep healing.

 

There is a two tiered set of ethics based on race.

Which one of us has only used exactly what we needed for subsistence?  How many of us live soley by those ethical principles? We kill animals. Through farms. Through our use of plastics (even BPA). Through our use of cars. Through habitat displacement via pulp and paper to hydroelectrical dams to run our computers.  Even the bamboo clothing process uses harsh chemicals that end up in the arctic eventually. The seal hunt and slaughter houses are harsh to look at because we don’t kill our own food anymore. We also say it is okay if it is if it just to feed yourself. Well, shouldn’t we hold ourselves to that same standard that we impose upon others?

The reality is ethics we have reflects an untested life. 

Ethics reflects a certain degree of luxury and economic security and, if you are familiar with Wade Davis, those will vary from culture to culture. It will also be dependent on the lifestyle you decide to adopt and that becomes ethnographic semantics. Sometimes, I think the only way out of this is to adopt a Buddhist life and live in a monastery with no electricity and just local water sources. 

Test your ethics first before you demonize.

Many people’s ethics are an emotional response to propaganda and twitter #trending.

  • Rather than protesting the seal hunt, adopt a family and give them all your extra cash (but no you don’t get to tell them what to do with the money)
  • Live your own ‘substience’ living and give away your money to a seal hunter family
  • Put a seal hunter’s kid through school.
  • If you argue ‘sentient’ beings should not be industrialized and slaughtered but then you eat farmed meat or use animal or poultry products, then your argument makes no sense to me. If you eat ketchup, you are consuming animal products.
  • If you protest the seal hunt, and not other types of hunting like the wolf cull to ensure cattle are safe, then that is problematic  (which is really horrifying because wolf packs are a threatened species).
  • If you argue no ‘sentient being’ should be killed.  Let’s see you take a walk in grizzly country without a weapon and see how your ethics hold up. I am guessing your ethics will take a quick back seat to protecting your child if a coyote or cougar attacked them.  You will become the predator when you are tested … or when your emotions become stronger in a different context.

It is healthier.

Another reason I support Inuit seal hunt is for health. A more traditional diet (seal, fish, caribou) , for people who decide to follow that, requires hunting. A person can burn 5000 calories a day in the North. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that moving a nomadic people to non-nomadic dependents on a diet of simple carbs may contribute to diabetes.  It would make sense then, to support people who want a healthier lifestyle. Professor Tim Noakes’s research suggest that refined simple  carbs lead to diabetes and a diet in high fat and meat does not. (Diabetes was not a problem…you could be fat and healthy).

So back to the seal hunt…. The cost of food in Inuit or isolated villages is very high and wages are low (1/2 make less than $20 000). Non-Inuit are also seeking enough for wages or EI at 30$ a pelt. (Yes, fur is a big business and so is leather.) Most of the food that arrives in the villages needs to be flown in. From an environmental perspective, that is a huge carbon footprint. Recently, a study concluded that Inuit children have to skip meals because folks can’t afford ‘southern’ food. On twitter, some folks posted the cost of some grocieries: A can of tomatoes 11$,  a box of pasta: 15$ a fresh fruit plate 80$, a turkey $108$. Those who protest the seal hunt are making it difficult for families to feed themselves because broadly, few people take the time to distinguish between Inuit and commercial practices.

Eventually, the cost of living (food, fuel, clothing etc) will go up. Eventually, Inuit people will have to extend their hunting beyond the 3% if there are no other alternatives.  I don’t think I have a right to tell a particular race of people that they should stay impoverished because their choice is ‘sociopathic’ (as a tweeter said).

We have less reverence than hunters do.

People have a right to craft solutions for their own people. On twitter, some said, let’s come up with a solution for them.  Again, that is colonization mentality:  they have a solution. Hunting. When a person hunts, they make a connection to people. They connect to the land. They learn reverence for the animal.  They connect with ceremony and recognize the spirit of the animal as a gift. Maybe they may even learn their language. It is part of healing.  The hunters I know are not wasteful. There is a certain admiration for the animal and respect. 

The hunters I know have far more respect for the animals than most people who buy their steaks in nicely plastic wrapped stryofoam packages. Hunters know that there is a humane way to hunt and most use a rifle. They understand that there is a humane way to hunt and kill animals and to manage animal populations. Regulations have come into play for the commercial hunt. We are not talking about poachers who want trophies of a black rhino or endangered species.

Yes, I concede it takes a certain type of people to be part of certain industries that are sometimes brutal, harsh and intense.  It doesn’t give us the right to remove their rights without their consent.

Environmentally responsible and ethical.

From an environmental management perspective, I support the seal hunt for Atlantic Canadians too.  Let me clarify that there are generalities and that there are differences in various regions depending on the time of the year and the location.  Also, I think in terms of systems over a period of time. That is the nature of nature.

Seal hunting is necessary to manage a problem humans created. Pack ice is increasing from time to time as the increase of glacier melting desalinates the water and leads to greater pack ice. However, that varies from year to year.  Seal pups are being killed by other seals as breeding grounds become crowded due to the size of the population or limited ice pack (depending on fluctuations in the icepack).  In some areas, seals are also starving because of limited food sources or because of competition. This means they are travelling to find different food sources, either further south or further inland.

Personally, have seen the effects of ‘good intentions propaganda’ on seals themselves. The cod industry was on a precipice. The success of the Green Peace movement to ban the seal hunt meant that the seal population grew.  Seals carry parasites. These parasites infected cod. Basically, the cod population was decimated by people who did not live in the area.

Well they only use the skin and it is brutal.

That may be because people worked to ban seal meat? What if we had the standard that in ALL animal industries, the entire animal should be used. (My Aunt had a leg of a caribou made into lamp…)  Here again, so for some people, they would ‘feel better’ if the entire animal was used. What if food was purchased by other countries for their population or for folks suffering from famine?

I would like to see digital proof of any photo or video that circulates that includes a time stamp and location.

And yes, there are things that people do to survive that involves a lot of blood.

Banning the Seal Hunt is a form of Assimilation and Colonization

I don’t believe I have a right to take away a person’s livelihood yet offer no alternatives.  I am not willing to pay more in taxes either. In part, I left home because there was no future there. Like many Atlantic Canadians, this meant that young people leave home. Our elders are often left in their small villages without their families. It too is a form of assimilation, where fisherman and hunters are basically forced to become part of the consumer driven cities on the mainland. Sometimes they have to go and find work in the construction industry or in the oil fields. (See the irony now). They often end up supporting two homes. A less know fact, is the increase of human trafficking in many smaller Newfoundland and Labrador communities. That happens when populations are vulnerable. I also believe that “offering” alternatives can be problematic because it is an outsider’s solution, and not a community solution.

Having grown up with hunters, I can tell you they are not ‘getting rich’ off the trade.  As I said, the cost of living in many Northern communities is very expensive.  Most hope to hunt and fish just enough to be able to qualify for E.I.  The notion they are ‘greedy’ is a Eurocentric value. A seal hunter doesn’t earn the cost of a coat sold in some luxury boutique

Just because you are vegan or a card carrying naked PETA member doesn’t mean you are not affecting animals.  If we look at the displacement of animals to promote farmland, or forestry for paper, we have disrupted habitat. If you like ketchup on your fries then you are consuming animal product (certain percentage allowed ie mice) or an animal died through plows and machinery. There is no prayer or reverence for the land or the animals that have been displaced as you eat quinoa, hemp seeds, or beans or other mon-culture crops that limit biodiversity. It is easy to rant and protest from behind a computer screen or leave some detached comment.  It is really much more difficult to give up part of your income and send it to a family to buy food so that you are living at the same level of poverty.  You are asking Inuit people to do something you are not prepared to do: give up everything and your family to go live in a place where you can be face-to-face with people who may oppose you. Protesting and activism is safe behind a screen or when you don’t take on a mega-corporation and just individuals.

Conclusion

There are no easy answers and the decision to eat any food comes with a system of consequences but this debate is laced with overtones of racism. It says you have to be educated like the “civilized” white man. You should be more like me. It says you are not really “Aboriginal” until I decide you are. 

I am likely to edit this post as more ideas come to me or when I have the time to add in the research.

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Comments

  1. #sealfie! Thank you so much for this post, it is lots of great food for thought. You’ve stated quite a few things I’ve thought about but didn’t quite know how to frame in a concise and understandable way. I will be sharing this far and wide.

    Respect!

  2. Tom Power

    As consenting adults we keep our elected representatives out of our bedrooms. It’s time we keep the for $$$ animal rights fundamentalist groups out of our kitchens and clothes closets.

    I’ve often felt that he who throws around cliches authored by 18th & 19th century European philosophers regarding the sentient subjective consciousness of animals is generally very far removed from the source of his food, fabric for his clothes and fuel source for his computer and smartphone.

    Those centuries old philosophers like their modern contemporaries are men and women of a certain circumstance. A few bourgeois champagne socialist’s with padded bottoms, apple dimpled cheek and soft hands round out the rank. Narcissists in mom’s basement can apply.

    Let us all go to Walmart for our supplies….your goods will be affordable….made in China and the developing world. The price margin is right…..low wages, long hours and human misery is a specialty…..but feel good as you didn’t buy a seal product.

    When the great white hunter of North America goes to get his deer hunting license renewed, the issuing government official will not ask if this 210 pound man used the carcass to feed his family. He will not be asked if he shot his large game with the optimum of efficiency to ensure a humane kill. He probably has an expensive rifle and a brand new model pickup truck….he won’t be asked if he has proof that he killed humanely.

    The anti sealing people have set standards and morals not imposed on any other wild hunt or ethnic group. One does not find IFAW Canada members filming and harrassing hunters and trappers around Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia.

    European countries produce the most animal pelts on the planet. The fur industry is worth over a BILLION euros. It is important for rural European communities, so says the European Fur Breeders Association.

    In Atlantic Canada and the North…we have known that for 40 years Inuit communities were always the hardest hit by seal product bans…..so did HSUS and IFAW. The animal rights fundamentalists didn’t care , they care now that Inuit can use social media and get their story out their.

    Of course, the animal rights fundamentalists will claim they are being used by the government……from the sublime to the ridiculous.

    The worst nightmare for IFAW and HSUS and their bottom line$$$$: A 17 year old Inuk girl with an internet account and a story.

    • Thanks for your input. I agree. If we begin to dictate what is on the plates of one culture then people need to be prepared to have that behaviour reciprocated. What bothers me the most is that this has racial implications.

  3. I discovered your article through a link on Twitter. It is *excellent*. One point you raise that I don’t see raised nearly enough is the fact that there is NO food choice that doesn’t have negative consequences for the environment. The whole focus on purer-than-thou eating choices is a distraction from real issues, real people, real environment, I think. And your points about condescension and people having the right to craft their own relationship to their environment are also excellent.

    • I did have it in the last paragraph but I did clarify. Ie ketchup. I agree with that. Even our cotton that we wear has a huge environment impact. Sometimes I think people’s ethics are more emotional when they see intense, harsh and immediate consequences to a choice.

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