Native People and the Seal Hunt

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Native People and the Seal Hunt

Well, it’s that time of year again.  The Canadian Seal Hunt starts in about a month and a half. I refer, of course, to the annual slaughter of about 300,000 baby harp seals.

I think that a lot of the people who actually support the Canadian Seal Hunt are understandably confused by the concept that it is, at least in part, a sustainable native hunt.

It is not, not even remotely.

The species targeted during the hunt are baby HARP seals (and occasionally hooded seals), most of them between 12 days and 3 months old.  (Yes, it is still legal to hunt baby seals, despite what the government might tell us.  beater sealThey have only made it illegal to kill pups 11 days and younger!)  About 325,000 are killed every March and April.  Native people, on the other hand, prefer to hunt adult RING seals.  They kill just 10,000 per year, and they actually HUNT them.  To quote Arnaituk M. Tarkirk, an Inuit man from Kuujjuak, Quebec:

“We are skillful hunters who hunt adult animals for food, That is not the same as bashing a pup, which can’t move, over the head.”

He even goes so far as to hypothesize that the end of the Canadian Seal Hunt would actually BENEFIT the native population:

The bloody aftermath of seal hunting“There would be 180,000 more seals left for us to eat when they are a few years older, and also people would not have such an aversion to sealskin products as they have after seeing the way they kill the pups, so craft work made with adult seals would be more popular.” (source)

Meanwhile, NativeRadio.com has also come out against the seal hunt:

“There is a difference in an indigenous culture’s right to hunt for food and economic survival, and the non-indigenous Newfoundlander’s massive slaughter of defenseless animals for profit and vanity!” (source)

The Canadian government, of course, doesn’t care.  They just want the seal hunt to continue, but the work of activists for the past few decades has made it basically a pariah in the global community.  To counter this, they had to come up with a scheme to appeal to “a poorly informed and emotional public”.  Yes, they actually said that.  More specifically, Brian Roberts, a senior advisor to the Canadian Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, said that, in a speech.  He also said:

“The first step was to neutralize the appeal of the animal protection lobby.  To accomplish this it was necessary to mount an equally emotionally powerful counter-appeal…based on the survival needs of aboriginal communities which depended upon the continuing taking of fur-bearing animals.” (source)

I am not native myself, but I find it disgusting and exploitative that the Canadian government, which on the whole has been totally dismissive in regards to the concerns of aboriginal people, is now claiming to be their champion.

If you want to read some of the most frequently asked questions in regards to the seal hunt (what happens to the meat?  what about the cod?) check them out here: http://liberationbc.org/issues/seal_hunt

A mother and child seal


10 Comments

Mary Martin

February 3, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Thanks for this. The seal hunt was one of my main causes 25 years ago, and I never would have thought we’d be here today. Again.

Jason

February 4, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I must disagree with his article completely… I was part of the seal hunt on baffin island in the past. baby seals are killed in order to sustain the species by keeping the breeding seals alive, canada has similar rules to fish, moose, caribou.

the natives also get the profits from the seal hunt, it’s one of the few industries and food supplies they have. I dont think people should complain about it unless they’ve actually been there and talked to the nativs about the issue.

Becci

February 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Thank you for your input, Jason, and thank you for being so polite.

I specifically discuss the issues of the native population and their total lack of relationship with the hunt. They are not involved in killing baby harp seals or hooded seals, nor do they receive any money from the hunt, as it is conducted almost entirely by white Newfoundlanders. Perhaps you are referring to the native hunt of adult ring seals, which does occur on Baffin island and is not something anybody has a problem with.

I’m afraid I don’t understand your comment about killing baby seals to keep breeding seals alive. In all their various excuses for the seal hunt, (and there are many) I have never heard the Canadian government say this. In fact, the population of harp seals has dropped in past years, and global warming has reduced their number even more significantly; the ground ice is melting out from seal pups before they are old enough to swim, so they drown. Three-quarters died last year before the hunters even got to them. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/04/070402-seals-hunt.html)

If you want to elaborate on this issue, go ahead. Please provide references.

zala

February 6, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Are we not all animals. why do we think that we have permission control the population of a species by clubbing them to death. What ever happened to sterilization. but we wouldnt have a fur coat now, right?
These animals have not learned to swim. some still weaning. many have not even had their first solid meal. their gestation period is twelve months – A call to the mothers in this world. oh the aggression of our kind to inflict so much pain. How i loathe the way i do so little about it.
Harper for harp seals!!!

Ben Q.

April 12, 2009 at 4:27 pm

hiya Becci
I have to say, the pictures of the pups to me makes me angry. Angry not against the seal hunt but to you and this blog. If they are not being hunted, then don’t post these pictures. I interpret these pictures as a way of misinforming the public.
Sadly, I do not understand why you capitalize all the names of the seals. Does it make a difference what kind of the seal is getting killed to you? Aren’t you against the seal hunt in general and not just Harp seals for example?
I’m afraid I do not understand what you mean by actually hunt them. Are you trying to say the commercial hunters are not hunting but? whatever it may be you to, why did you name it the Canadian Seal Hunt then?
You said “(Yes, it is still legal to hunt baby seals, despite what the government might tell us. beater sealThey have only made it illegal to kill pups 11 days and younger!)” is very untrue. After a seal sheds its white fur, it is not considered a baby seal anymore. Maybe more research on that would be a great help to the public reading this.
Respectfully
Ben Qu

Becci

April 12, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Hi Ben.

Thanks for your input. I want to respond to a few of your comments.

“They have only made it illegal to kill pups 11 days and younger!)” is very untrue.”

No, it is very true, and you can look at any official website to confirm it. Baby seals start to lose their white fur at around 12 days of age, at which point it is legal to kill them.

For example: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/sealhunt/

The first seal photo I used shows a seal who has started to lose its white fur, and is therefore legal to kill. The last one, which shows a mother and baby, I used because it’s so damn cute. We can’t see enough of the baby’s body to determine whether it’s started to lose its white fur, of course. It MIGHT be legal to kill, but that’s not why I used the picture.

Does it make a difference what kind of the seal is getting killed to you? Aren’t you against the seal hunt in general and not just Harp seals for example?

The Canadian Seal Hunt –a hunt of white fishermen from the Maritimes–focuses on the slaughter of harp seals. That is why I referred specifically to harp seals. If they started hunting other types of seals, I would be against their slaughter as well.

However, and as I said in my post, I am not against the idea of hunting seals in general. Oh, and the reason I capitalized the name is because I was attempting to emphasize the fact that white fishermen from the Maritimes kill HARP seals, while native people kill RING seals.

I’m afraid I do not understand what you mean by actually hunt them. Are you trying to say the commercial hunters are not hunting but? whatever it may be you to, why did you name it the Canadian Seal Hunt then?

I did not name it “the Canadian Seal Hunt” anymore than I named the seals “harp seals”. That’s what it’s called. Some activists have started referring to it as the Canadian Seal Slaughter, which is more accurate. Anyway, when I said that native people actually hunt the seals, I meant that they stalk and chase adult seals before managing to kill them. In contrast, the men involved in the Canadian Seal Hunt/Slaughter (your pick) walk into a nursery of 12 day old to 3 month old seals who are too young to swim and can barely move to get away, and start smashing their heads in. I do not consider that hunting–I consider it shooting fish in a barrel.

Thanks for your input.

Jess

October 8, 2010 at 8:55 am

Oh how i loathe the seal slaughter, as well as any animal slaughter (but i wont get into that). a friend and i are planning to move to canada from our home in pennsylvania, do you think there is anything a 22 year old girl could possibly do to help this cause!?

Becci

October 8, 2010 at 10:50 am

Hi Jess! There is definitely plenty you can do to help. It certainly depends where in Canada you plan to live, but there are animal rights groups all over the country who are against the hunt. I would suggest googling your location with keywords like “stop the seal hunt” or “seal hunt protest”, etc. You can also contact IFAW, as they do quite a bit and might be able to direct you to a local effort.

Amanda

March 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm

This is very sad to know this

Billy Bob

March 21, 2013 at 9:52 am

SINFUL 🙁

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