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.