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April 8, 2014

Humane Society International/Canada Clarifies Long Standing Position on Inuit Subsistence Sealing

Humane Society International/Canada, The Humane Society of the United States

  • HSI

In response to media reports conflating the issue of the Inuit seal hunt with Canada’s commercial seal hunt, Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada, the international affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States, released the following statement:

“We have never opposed the Inuit subsistence seal hunt that occurs in Canada’s North. Animal protection groups oppose the commercial seal slaughter, which occurs in Atlantic Canada and is almost entirely conducted by non-aboriginal people.

“Commercial sealing advocates have long attempted to blur the lines between their globally condemned industry and the socially accepted Inuit subsistence hunt. But Inuit people clearly disagree with this strategy. Seventy-three percent of Inuit residents in Nunavut assert it is unfair to equate Inuit sealing with the commercial seal slaughter because they are entirely different activities. [1] 

“Unlike Inuit sealers, commercial sealers almost exclusively target baby seals who are less than 3-months-old. Inuit hunters kill seals primarily for meat. Commercial sealers slaughter seal pups for their fur, dumping most of the carcasses at sea. Inuit sealers kill seals sporadically throughout the year while commercial sealers often kill hundreds of thousands of seals in a matter of days or weeks. These differences prompted Aqqaluk Lynge, then Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, to remark in 2006, ‘in contrast to the Inuit hunters, Newfoundlanders use nature as a slaughterhouse.’[2]

“The vast majority of Canadian Inuit seal products are consumed domestically. Nonetheless there are exemptions for Inuit products in international prohibitions on commercial seal product trade. Unfortunately, the Canadian government has thus far failed to certify Canadian Inuit seal products, likely because doing so would highlight the clear distinction between the two types of hunts.

“We live in a world of educated consumers and certification. From sustainable seafood to fair trade coffee, consumers are making clear choices with the products they buy. By certifying and differentiating their products from the commercial seal slaughter, Inuit sealers can maintain their small international trade. But continuing to use Inuit traditions to defend commercial sealing will only harm their future prospects.”

Media Contact: Christopher Pare – 514 395-2914, email: cpare@hsi.org

[1] Environics Research (2013)
[2] Politikien. January 6, 2006. Referenced in Now Toronto. March 9-16, 2006. http://www.nowtoronto.com/stage/story.cfm?content=152322

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