Governor General Eats Some Seal, Big Deal

Reading today’s news I read about the Governor General’s visit to Nunavut in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Unfortunately overshadowing the 10th anniversary of a landmark reclamation of Inuit owned land was the participation of the Governor General of Canada participating in an age-old tradition of sitting in a group and eating from a fresh seal.

"It amazes us that a Canadian official would indulge in such bloodlust," Dan Mathews, senior vice-president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told the Toronto Star.

"It sounds like she's trying to give Canadians an even more Neanderthal image around the world than they already have."

Normally I wouldn’t dignify a quote from PETA, as they are known for being a bit…eccentric, but seeing as this was almost a direct attack on Inuit culture and its values, I felt compelled to retort. The quote begs these questions. Since the senior vice president of PETA said the Governor General herself was giving a Neanderthal-like image, what does he think of the Inuit culture? What does PETA and its members think of Inuit culture? Does the world really think that Inuit are Neanderthals? Being an Inuk myself I worry about the negative press this is attracting. The European Union and other animals’ rights activists are jumping on the bandwagon as well.
Barbara Slee, an anti-seal hunt campaigner at the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Brussels, said, "The fact that the Governor General in public is slashing and eating a seal, I don't think that really helps the cause, and I'm convinced that this will not change the mind of European citizens and politicians."
One sad truth is that the focus is on the non-Inuit related seal hunt with the Governor General’s gesture, instead of focusing on what it really was: participation in an Inuit Tradition.

Further investigation lead me to PETA’s website, and on the front page I came across a boycott to end the seal hunt. I read the following blurb to a petition:

Help Baby Seals by Boycotting Canadian Maple Syrup

“Can your choice of syrup really help stop the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seals in Canada every year? Yes! Tell Canada you won't support Canadian maple syrup, a product vital to its economy, until you can support its treatment of seals.”

I’ve always known that Canada has had one of the better economies in the world, and I’m confident that the line from the blurb “a product vital to its economy” regarding our maple syrup is mis-leading. I read into it and came to the conclusion that maple syrup makes up .69% of the AGRI-exports to the U.S., This doesn’t even touch other aspects of our diverse economy.

What does this tell us? Does PETA really want to put hard-working maple syrup farmers out on the street, even if they have nothing to do with sealing? Does PETA really want Inuit to discontinue four millennia of tradition? Do their ends really justify their means?

I’ll put this out there, PETA is ignorant, but so is the rest of the world. They are not familiar with Inuit way of life, even though we are the people on the frontlines of one of the biggest issues in the world today, climate change and global warming. I would like to know why Inuit aren’t the centre of, or even off centre of conversations around the world.

Taima

Nanauq Kusugak

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07 July 2009

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