Hunting Seal

I am not vegetarian. On the contrary, I will eat just about any meat you present me, if it has lived an ethical life. Apart from the standard beef, pork, lamb and chicken, I have eaten horse, pigeon, rabbit, pheasant, crocodile, ostrich, kangaroo, cockroach, snake, grasshoppers, larvae, a LOT of ocean food including whale, jellyfish and I could go on. I really don’t mind, as long as it was not an animal who suffered in a cage somewhere, filled with drugs.

I use the same pragmatism with what I wear. I think it is important to support sustainable clothing, such as bamboo, hemp or organic cotton. When it comes to the use of animal products I prefer the use of skin where the rest of the animal is used and not discarded – such as leather.

I’m writing all this to present a context to a cause I find very important. The hunting for seal in Greenland and the trade of the skin.

The hunting for seal is one of the fundaments of a sustainable life for the Inuit in Greenland. Before industrialization it was not possible to survive in the cold climate without the seal meat, which is rich in vitamins. Today thousands of families in Greenland still survive as hunters of seal, a lifestyle which supports both their life and culture. This is especially true in the smaller villages (bygder) which have already suffered greatly through forceful movement and removal of their children.

Unfortunately, the life of the Inuit hunters is now under severe threat. Animal rights activists have successfully rallied for a ban on sealskin, mainly because of the Canadian (non-Inuit) practice of clubbing baby seal. In 2010 the European Union thus banned import of sealskin. The ban has an “Inuit exception” as it is recognized that the Inuit hunt using sustainable and humane practices. But the exception doesn’t work. The serious general resistance against sealskin has led to a collapse of the trade. In 2008 the sealskin trade was approximately 10 million dollars. In 2011 it fell to 1 million.

This is a tragedy, especially for the Inuit hunters and the small communities, but also for everyone else in Greenland. The loss of the trade will lead to a devastating economic loss for many families but also a devastating cultural loss for the whole country. All of this because of a misunderstood political correctness on the global market.

The Inuit are trying to raise awareness of their problems. On 1 May I ran into a group of them trying to engage the Danes in conversation, though I doubt it was successful.

I for one would proudly wear the sealskin hunted by the Inuit. And I would eat seal given the chance. I wish I could afford something as beautiful as the vest this man is wearing. Or the woman for that matter.

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7 thoughts on “Hunting Seal

  1. Populist law making = reform legislation through knee-jerk reaction and press hysteria. The power of the internet will make this type of governance ever more prevalent. No matter how the Inuit campaign to the contrary, the damage is done, trade will never return. Another ‘cash crop’ needs to be found, quickly.

    • The situation in Greenland is so severe that it can keep me awake at night. There are many children going to bed hungry (and adults too). Unfortunately there isn’t that many alternatives for the Inuit. The fishing quotas are set internationally and many European countries illegally overfish the Greenlandic waters. The Inuit are so connected to the sea that they cannot exploit it (the Aboriginal say mother earth, the Inuit say mother ocean). As for growing things in the cold climate, this is very difficult.
      But you are right. They need to find an alternative. Which makes the situation so much more desperate.

      • Yes, and in the meantime the fabric of their culture and social order is being tested and torn apart. It’s good you’re there where you can learn all about it ‘from the horse’s mouth’.

      • I feel so priviledged to have their confidence; the Inuit are not an easy people to get talking. But I worry. I really do. I have no idea how we are going to stop this disaster. There is so much at stake. But I suspect they have seen worse from our hand.

      • That’s for sure. Understanding breeds trust – you’ll learn more, and more, and maybe one day you’ll meet/reach just the person who can do something practical with the aid of your knowledge.

      • I hope so. Either that or help empower them to do it on their own. Or both.

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