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Published: October 2nd 2012
My inspiration for this blog entry came from a very interesting article I read on my flight into Inuvik. Inuvik sits right on the Arctic Circle and I will be doing a circuit with the Territorial Court here this week.
The article is entitled, “My Conversation with Ezra” and it discusses some of the problems local aboriginal groups have when it comes to protecting their hunting rights with regard to environmentalist pressure. It is by Terry Audla.
Some of the more interesting quotations from the article include:
“ ‘Fight them with facts!’” That is exactly what Inuit have endeavored to do in our legal attempts to overturn a law banning the export of seal products to the European Union. And when it comes to firing back at jet-setting activists who fly into remote communities, destroying industries and incomes, and fly right back out again, we’ll take all the help we can get.” (He was discussing the unlikely support of Inuit hunting practices by a Conservative Member of Parliament)
“A woman he (the parliamentarian) met in Inuvik told him her family could eat for a year on the muktuk from a single whale. He asked to go out hunting with the family, but she said no, fearing the footage would simply become added arsenal in the propaganda war against the harvest.
‘Here was an Inuit woman whose family has been living off the bounty off of the sea for centuries and just eating her traditional food,” he said, ‘and she was condemned as if she was some evil woman, afraid to show me what was in her freezer.’”
The article decried the “emotional pornography” used by animal rights groups noting that you could show almost an industrial activity and get the same emotional impact.
I thought this article brought up a fascinating point- how fair is it that environmental activists judge hunting practices without understanding the cultural significance that these practices have to the local peoples? I struggled with this myself when I lived in West Africa. A common kept quiet medical practice involved cutting sick children in order to get "demons" out when they were ill. I obviously wasn't able to find out much about it, but I had to question my automatic disgust. However, and this is not a universally shared opinion, I put the value of the lives of children above that of animals. I'm more of food chain enthusiast I suppose.
The protesting also fails to recognize the severe poverty that these people are living in. To me it seems like a different kind of euro-centrism. I am not sure if there is an adequate descriptor for what it is, but it may be just plain old cultural ignorance.
If the argument against these hunting practices lies in conservation, there is definitely some merit. However, in disallowing the hunting practices for conservation purposes without supplementing income and possibly giving out food vouchers ignores poverty and other social issues that the aboriginal people in these Northern communities face. It must be considered that these people were hunting in this way for centuries, I would like to think that they would be able to continue to do it in a sustainable way.
I attempted to find out why the export of seal products to European countries was banned and this is what I found:
I guess China is down….but a little funny that the animal rights groups in China are so vocal about it. How about human rights and fair labor practices in China? Hypocrisy much?
And a counter-opinion to my own:
(However I would dispute some of the facts in this one regarding wastage)
Further, I find it minorly ironic that environmental activists are using fossil-fueled aircrafts to come up to these communities. Also, I seriously hope that they all are vegetarians. An excellent movie that I own (if anyone wants to borrow it) is Food Inc. It shows how inhumane mass farming is- comparably as inhumane as clubbing seals if you consider that the animals are pumped with hormones, chained in overcrowded stalls, and then slaughtered in a way that only preserves the quality of the meat rather than dealing with the pain that the animal may feel.
If I were invited to go on a seal or whaling expedition I would go. Some would of you may be disturbed by this. However, I don't think it would be fair of me to judge this practice as I was born into a white, middle class, anglo-saxon family in Southern Ontario. Unfortunately, being able to attend such an event will not happen. People are too afraid of being judged.
Today I did try a musk-ox pattie…not my favorite by any means... but after reading the article I wanted to seek out some local delicacies. Interestingly, I also cannot find any local restaurants that sell any of the food caught and harvested- unless families are keeping it all to themselves.
The article ended quite nicely:
“This is our 100 mile diet and nobody has the right to take it from us. It is worth remembering when we begin to feel pressure from animal activists and the like, that we are fighting them with facts, and we are winning allies at every turn.”
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