For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wow - and thanks!

I must admit to being surprised at reading the responses to my last post about the seal hunt. In all honesty, I'm surprised there's 3 people even reading my blog, not to mention taking the time and effort to leave a comment. LOL Many thanks for the responses. I would only ask that commenters please reply in a respectful manner. There's no need to be insulting to people just because they hold a different opinion.

There are a couple of things Melissa wrote that I would like to respond to more specifically, as they are examples of some of the myths and misunderstandings I've referred to before, simply because most people are missing information.

I think most of the people, including me, are in an uproar about the seal killings because a lot of it is done by bludgeoning the seal repeatedly on the skull. Even a hunter would have to agree it is not the most humane way to kill something. In fact, it's horrific.

Well, yes, the sight of a hunter brandishing the hakipik (sp?) and crushing the skull could be considered horrific. It's up close and personal, for starters, and from a visual perspective, yes, you would be right.

But is it less humane than using a rifle? No. While I am no marksman, my husband is, and he'll be the first to tell you just how hard it is to hit a small target - especially one that moves. Add in the fact that the hunters are on bobbing on the water , the challenge is even greater. The use of a rifle may or may not result in instant death. It depends on many variables.

A number of years ago I'd read a report that put together the results of various independant groups studying seal hunt methods, including the Humane Society of Canada (not at all affiliated with the HSUS), that came to the conclusion that the quickest, most humane method used in the seal hunt is the traditional hakipik. Done properly, death is instantaneous (with a reminder to those that claim seals are being skinned alive, that bodies will continue to twitch, sometimes long after they're dead). For me, this supports my own personal experiences in other areas. There are times when the rifle is the best, most efficient way to hunt. There are times when it is not.

The key, of course, is the words "done properly." Whatever the hunters find themselves having to use, I believe it's important that they are required to actually know how to use them, and that they use them in an efficient and responsible manner. As I've read acknowledged before, there's no such thing as 100% compliance. That's true of all things. This is why the government has its own observers, doing what they can to ensure the idiot count is kept low.

As I have read from several sources, most of them bludgeon the animals with a club and then take the hide and leave the carcass to decay in the sun.

The use of the hakipik I've just covered, but I would question the claim that "most of them" take the hide and leave the carcass to decay in the sun. To begin with, I find it unlikely that"most" hunters, who rely on these hunts, would leave behind a source of food and other income producing materials. The omega 3 oil of seals, for example, is a growing market, as the oil is found to be superiour to that from other sources. It's a wasteful behaviour that I normally associate with trophy "hunters," or those sorry excuses for "hunters" that caused so many problems in the area I grew up in. I'm sure it happens, but "most hunters?" That, I question.

There's also the "decay in the sun" part. This, I would also consider unlikely to be a problem. Even the far north has its scavengers. Any remains left behind would soon be gone, filling the bellies of other animals. I doubt these bodies would have much time to decay - assuming they remained unfrozen long enough to begin the decaying process in the first place, which is also unlikely.

And finally...

However, I have to say I am not overly sympathetic if people have to survive financially on the selling of animal skins. A lot of people have it hard in this world and need to adjust in order to make it. Maybe it's time to learn a new trade.

You are right. A lot of people have it hard in this world and need to adjust. It is difficult, but such is life. This suggestion, however common it is (and not just towards the seal hunt), has its own problems.

It is adjusting with changes that those who live in the far north are trying to do. People have lived and thrived there for 1000's of years, living a traditional, subsistance way of life that was interrupted by the influx of European explorers and settlers and their concepts of money and finances. The natives, forced to end many of their traditional ways, adjusted and survived. They've done so for the last 300 years, with variable success. Now, it's almost impossible to live a fully traditional lifestyle. Income is needed, but there are almost no jobs at all. Would we really want the sort of infrastructure needed to create them in the far north anyways? I live in a city now, and for me, getting a job was a simple as dropping off a resume at the local grocery store. Before I lived in city, I had farther to go, but I still had some choices - hotels, gas stations, stores, etc. Do we really want these things in the north? I don't. The environment is too fragile. Traditional subsistance methods, modified to meet the needs of modern life, would be more responsible, and that means people earning incomes independantly, using local resources, not by having jobs. Hunting has far fewer negative effects than other possibilites, including the suggestions of eco-tourism. The last thing the far north needs is an influx of boats, helicopters, planes and garbage strewing tourists.

The alternative is for them to leave the north, and surely there are many who do. But does that make life any better? There are plenty of examples around the world, as well as in our own Canadian cities, where people leave their traditional homes and lives in search of jobs. The transistions are very difficult, and many of these people live in extreme poverty. Depression, illness, substance abuse and criminal activities become rampant. It can be done successfully, but at great cost. I won't even start on the emotional/psychological pain being forced to leave can have. It's been almost 2 decades since I've left the farm, and I still feel it.

There's another side of the problem too, of course. A recent incident keeps popping into my mind when I read these sort of sentiments. I was serving a customer at work and, like just about everyone else, he commented on the large amounts of snow we'd just had. After a winter of almost no snow at all, I'd responded with how the farmers must be glad of it, as we need the moisture. The customer answered (to paraphrase), "I'm not a farmer, so I don't care. I don't want the snow."

Having grown up on the farm, I do care. I forget how easy it is for people who know nothing about farm life to forget how important farms are. To them, food is something you get at a grocery store. Many couldn't care less if it was from a local farmer, or imported from half way around the world. More than anything else, however, they have *no idea* how important farms are to them and their comfortable city lives. Unfortunately, like the traditional hunters, more and more farmers are having to struggle, while at the same time being attacked for their livelihoods. Farmers who raise animals are accused of cruetly from people who don't know the sacrifices they make to keep their charges as healthy and content as possible and still make a living. Farmers who grow crops are accused of environmental damage, even as they are forced to use ever more chemicals or genetically modified seed, just to make a living. Traditional hunters and trappers are especially vilified for what they do.

Let us imagine, for a moment, what would happen if all these people decided to do as suggested by so may - to stop what they're doing and find another politacally correct way to live. If every struggling farmer gave up and moved to the towns and cities. If every hunter and trapper did the same. What would happen?

Would all farms have to become huge corporate entities? Would we have to begin importing all our food? Would our government have to step up culling of wild life as populations burgeon and animal attacks increase? What would happen to the local economies that depend on supplying their needs and buying their products? What would happen to the environment, if there's no one there to see first hand the warning signs, as our northern peoples are right now? People are busy complaining about the seal hunt, which has so little negative effect on the world, while ignoring what the hunters have been saying for years - that the ice floes are smaller and melting faster, that polar bears are going hungry because they can no longer reach their food sources, that people can't even build igloos anymore because the snow itself has changed, and so on. This is damage *we* may be causing - when northern animals are found to have toxic pollutants in their bodies, it's not because of the people who live there. It's because of us.

It's far too simplistic to say, "just do something else."


  1. Hi Kunoichi,

    Your comments seem to imply that most of the seal hunters are natives/Inuits. I would be surprised if this were so. Do you have any numbers on this? I can't seem to find any information on that anywhere.

    And what about the number of seals killed, quota of 325,000 or so? Where does this number come from and how is it determined? Is the government insuring that this will not have a detrimental affect on the continuing health and sustenance of the seal population for the future?

    And as for the farm scenario, part of the time I grew up on my grandparents' farm. My husband and I make conscious efforts everyday to keep the health of the world and environment in our minds. Unlike most people, we buy locally grown fruit and vegetables as much as possible, so I'm not your typical Western consumer who only thinks about what's most convenient for me without a thought to where and how it comes to me. However, times are changing constantly whether people like it or not. People are upset because our jobs are going to India and Mexico. But that's the nature of the world and the nature of globalization. If we want to survive we have to change with it and adapt. I don't mean to sound heartless, but you can't just sit and cry over a job that has become obsolete, you have to move on. I guess I have some of that immigrant mentality (my father was an immigrant)where you work hard and you keep pushing forward.

    Regardless, everyone's entitled to their own opinion. I just think this is one that we'll never agree on.

  2. P.S. Thanks for your comment on being respectful and not making insulting comments. Sometimes I'm completely shocked on this thing because people are unable to present a differing viewpoint without other people becoming infuriated to the point of making hateful, profane statements.

  3. Thank you for pointing that our for me, Melissa. I guess what I wrote does imply that most of the hunters are Inuit. I know many are, but I also know that many (most?) are off season fishermen, and I have no idea what their various ethnicities might be. I didn't think to differentiate, since fishing is as traditional for the area as hunting.

    As for the quotas, those are determined by a number of factors. These include current populations (approaching 6 million, triple what they were 30 years ago), and recently the fisheries department says they will be including climate change as a factor in determining quotas as well.

    I am glad to hear you are among those that try to support the local producers, and of your awareness of the issues farmers have to face. I see that so rarely - especially since working in a grocery store. The store itself goes out of its way to support local producers, but the customers... that's a whole other story! It's just not on their radar. I, too, am the daughter of immigrant parents, and I understand what you're saying. Generally, I am in total agreement. I believe there's a difference, however, in a job that has become obsolete and a way of life that's being threatened by fickle opinions and 30 second sound bites, or by powerful lobby groups with an agenda. The average person is bombarded with messages and rarely has the time, nor the inclination, to learn more. The unfortunately part is that it makes their opinions easily manipulated, and the y aren't the ones who suffer for it.

    I'd much rather listen to someone who disagrees with me, but has actually made the effort to educate themselves on the subject, than someone who agrees with me, but hasn't.

  4. Thanks Kunoichi. Point taken! =)

  5. Silenz2:31 PM

    ((This is 'Anonymous' from before.))

    Thanks for clearing all that up, true that this is one of the things that no one will ever agree upon, but it's lovely to see that at least a couple of people actually know what they're talking about.

  6. Anonymous12:12 PM

    Hi Melissa,

    The 325,000 from two years ago is set by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. That number has since been reduced to 275,000 and will probably continue to be reduced as a cautionary measure over the next three years despite the fact that the herd has shown consistent growth over the past two decades or more. There will be another count this year but the most recent estimate for herd size is 5.5 million Harps: the most populous seal species on the planet.

    I'm not sure why fishing and hunting seals is seen as being obsolete because people who live miles and cultures away dislike the image of it. It is a part of a sustainable, low-consumption way of life that has not changed a huge amount in hundreds of years. Animals die when people live, whether it is farm animals for food, or numbers of animals lost to a new subdivision.
    The division between aboriginal and non-aboriginal practices is problematic in that it often strays into pretty colonialistic and even racist territory, i.e. aboriginals are told that it is shameful that they would use a firearm rather than a spear. This has happened. Can you imagine the insult?

    Seal hunting is not obsolete. In fact, I think that going into nature to kill food for your family, and yes, non-aboriginal rural people do do that, is perhaps the most honest work you can do. Unfortunately, folks who live as consumers, consuming packaged food, entertainment, relationships and ideologies are more comfortable with the idea of installing false nails for a living than any sort of direct relationship with the killing of animals (of which we are all guilty, just some at a greater distance than others).

    Happy New Year and all the best.


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