I recently watched Angry Inuk, a film made by Aletha Arnaquq-Baril that documents her efforts to stop the European government from banning seal fur exports.
I remember when the seal fur ban was in full swing in the North. Celebrities like Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson were fighting to save the seals and even though these so-called animal rights activists never even visited the North – they still figured they knew everything there was to know about the killing of seals and how it was an inhuman act – not once considering that it is a form of sustenance, livelihood, and cultural tradition for Inuit peoples in the Arctic.
When some of these “activists” did visit the North, they would foolishly touch the baby seals, which actually ended up hurting them because the mother would no longer want to go near it after it had the scent of humans and the baby seal would eventually suffer and die unable to fend for itself without its mother.
A seal hunt suspicion
I have a sneaking suspicion that there is more to it than simply “saving the seals,” something that runs deeper than animal rights protests and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. One has to wonder why there was and still is such an immense interest in saving the seals when seal hunting has proven to be a culturally responsible traditional harvest that’s more ethical than the mass slaughtering of pigs and cows for profitable consumption.
I believe the ban on Inuit seal fur export has to do with control. Self-reliant, self-sufficient Indigenous peoples with a place on the world trade market is something to be feared by those in power.
Switching gears for a moment, in 2019 the federal government declared Thaidene Nene as a national park for conservation purposes. It was agreed that only the Indigenous people to that area would be able to continue their cultural hunting and fishing practices. That’s all well and good, but I was scratching my head trying to figure out why Ducks Unlimited was so interested in helping to set aside that land in the name of a national park.
In my search for an answer, I found out that Ducks Unlimited is sponsored by Bayer and Bayer owns a company called Monsanto that is in the business of genetically modifying crops to be resistant to a pesticide it produces called RoundUp. Ducks is also partnered with Enbridge which is directly affiliated with Imperial Oil and Exxonmobil both of which are in the business of hydraulic fracturing. So, what’s in it for these companies if not trying to literally save the ducks? Is it considered a good deed when these companies donate money towards the establishment of national parks to make up for their destruction of other lands?
Efforts to save the seals and ribbon cutting celebrations of national parks may just be a distraction for something larger that is lurking under the surface. Large areas of land set aside for national parks meant to protect forests and wildlife may very well be used for exploitation in the future.
Conservation is one of three limitations to some modern day Treaty Agreements, the other two being the defense of impending war and the threat of public health.
Using conservation as a limitation could give the government the ability to override modern-day Treaty Agreements and impose jurisdiction on land title because of a lesser-known legal complication called ‘underlying title’ which the jury is still out on thanks to the Delgamuukw trial.
At the end of the day, it is not the harvesting of seals that activists should be worried about, identifying potential underlying reasons that large corporations are trying to assert control over lands and waters is what should be the focus.