Social Studies: On Ellen, the seal hunt and 'sealfies'


Is there a cause that has been more misconstrued by animal rights activists than the Canadian seal hunt?


"It's apparent that the facts don't matter," wrote John Ivison in January after the National Post obtained legal documents commissioned by the EU when they sought to ban imported seal products in 2009. "They have been replaced by popular delusion and the madness of crowds."


"The Commission has constantly indicated that there are no reasons to be concerned about the conservation status of seals," the report created by the legal team noted. But the EU went ahead with the ban anyway.


"Celebrities like Pamela Anderson and Paul McCartney have popularized the myth that baby seals are routinely clubbed for their white pelts," said Ivison, "a practice outlawed years ago."

The latest to get it wrong is Ellen DeGeneres. Her Oscar viral selfie generated $1.5 million, which DeGeneres donated to the Humane Society of the United States, who makes no secret of its disdain for Canada's sea hunt. Neither does DeGeneres: On her website, she calls it "one of the most inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government" and wrongly states that baby seals as young as three months old are among the harvested. 


On the contrary: It counts as one of the most humane harvests of any animal. "Even the Independent Veterinarians Working Group said in a report that a hakapik strike to the seal’s skull, while appearing brutal," he writes, "is a humane method of killing, since it causes immediate loss of consciousness."

It's certainly not a conservation issue: "The Canadian government estimates there are around 6.9 million Atlantic harp seals," writes Ivison, which is "triple the numbers from the 1970s." And in 2012, hunters didn't even come close to reaching their 400,000 federal quota. They only harvested about 91,000 seals. And talk about free-range! A harp seal's existence is positively idyllic compared to a free range hen or pigs and cows who live their lives confined in pens. 

That leaves emotion. And while it's difficult to fault anyone who speaks out against animal cruelty, which exists and is awful, the seal hunt seems like a nonsensical target. "As Jacques Cousteau, the great French conservationist, put it, seal hunt opposition is entirely emotional," notes Ivison. Cousteau implored us to be logical: “We have to aim our activity first to the endangered species. Those who are moved by the plight of the harp seal could also be moved by the plight of the pig — the way they are slaughtered is horrible.”

Although Killaq Enuaraq-Strass, a 17-year-old from Iqaluit, Nunavut, is an Ellen-fan, she believes that the talk show host could use a little educating when it comes to the sea hunt, specifically how much Inuit households depend upon it. Enuaraq-Strass told Maclean's: "While I agree with standing up for what you believe in, I also realize that [DeGeneres] didn’t have all the information on the story. She didn’t have the perspective of the indigenous peoples and their cultural views.” 


So she created this YouTube video:



Other Canadian Inuits are also responding to DeGeneres by posting "sealfies"—instead of star-studded selfies—on social media to underline the fact that seals provide food and clothing to their communities. Take a look: 



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