DISPELLING THE MYTHS
Updated: Apr 4
Sealskin has a bad rep in the sustainability movement. As a social enterprise that supports Canadian Indigenous industries, we have heard a lot of myths about Indigenous hunters and the sealing industry up North. Here are the most common ones:
1. HUNTERS KILL SEALS USING INHUMANE METHODS.
Inuit hunters have always taken the utmost care to ensure that the hunt is painless and efficient. They do not club baby seals over the head. Most Inuit hunters employ a hakapik to help retrieve seals from the water and ensure a quick death. Furthermore, Inuit hunters never skin seals alive. This goes against everything Inuit are taught about respecting their ecosystem.
2. WE ARE OVERFISHING SEALS.
The seal population in the Northwest Atlantic, predominantly where hunts take place, are healthy and abundant. According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the population of harp seals is 7.4 million and going strong, while the population of ringed seals sit at 1.2 million. Check out Canada's Federal Fisheries and Oceans website for more information.
3. INUIT DO NOT NEED TO EAT SEAL MEAT. THEY CAN GROW VEGETABLES INSTEAD.
Forcing a culture that has suffered cultural disenfranchisement and destruction due to colonization to change their traditional diet is disrespectful. A Greenpeace activist once asked Inuit leaders to build greenhouses in the Arctic and grow vegetables instead! Given the remoteness of the Canadian Arctic, the cost of building and maintaining greenhouses, as well as distributing vegetables to a population in which vegetables are not traditionally a dietary staple is unrealistic, and not to mention unhealthy.
4. THE INUIT HUNT HARP SEAL PUPS.
The Inuit in Canada’s Arctic generally hunt ringed seals and adult harp seals, both of which are thriving populations in the North.
5. WE HAVE NOTHING AGAINST THE INUIT SUBSISTENCE HUNT, OUR ISSUE IS WITH THE COMMERCIAL HUNT.
Many commercial sealers are Inuit hunters, who are commercially licenced. Small-scale Inuit hunters do not possess the financial means to create massive national and global networks in which to sell their sealskins. The commercial seal hunt provides an accessible platform for them. Inuit activists are working to build reforms in the commercial seal hunt that fully integrate the Indigenous way of environmental management and preservation.
6. THERE IS NO SUSTAINABLE WAY TO HUNT SEALS.
There is a spiritual connection between Inuit hunters and their land. They still follow traditional hunting patterns based on high and low seasons. Inuit hunters understand that in order to maintain the health of the seal population, they cannot overfish. Hunts are conducted seasonally, giving the seal population the time in between seasons to replenish. Hunters only hunt what is needed for their communities (you do not see seal meat sold in grocery stores). They are not pushing for a large scale industry like what we see in the poultry, seafood and cattle industries.
Photo Credit: David Kilabuk published in CBC's article titled "Power not yet fully restored to Pangnirtung."
CBC, N. (Ed.). (2015, April 2). Power not yet fully restored to Pangnirtung.CBC. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/power-not-yet-fully-restored-to-pangnirtung-1.3019117