¿Is it possible for a vegetarian on ethical and environmentalist grounds to take sides with hunters against animal rights groups? In this case, after seeing this film, yes. This is the power of independent documentary: to show situations from a different perspective, other than the point of view sustained in mainstream media. This informative and activist film is a superb example of the ability of non-fiction cinema to shed light on misrepresented questions.
The Inuit (singular Inuk), inhabitants of the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, and Alaska -the so-called Eskimos, contemptuous term meaning “crude meat eaters”- live in a zone of harsh climate, almost absolutely devoid of trees and plants. Its main resource all over their history have been seals, that have provided them with furs to make their clothes and to sell them abroad. Seals are for Inuits no only a means to make a living, but their way to survive.
For the last forty years, animal rights groups from all over the world have been launching campaigns against the commercial seal hunt, especially seal pups, which was carried out in a region of Canada. This game was not practiced by the Inuit, but by white people who killed relentlessly as many pups as they could to feed the leather industry. There was a situation quite similar to the one in the nineteenth century US with bisons: the indigenous culture that hunted the main native animal in an ethical, sustainable way saw how the white invaders slaughtered it with a view to getting rich trough industry. The animal rights campaigns turned the protest against the killings of seals in that Canada region as a banner in the fight for animals. The seal pups became the emblem of the animal rights movement.
Such initiative arose the good consciences in the Western world. Nobody bothered to explain that the Inuit hunt seals in a very different, conscious way, which doesn’t affect the overall population of the species, and that by no means made it vulnerable to extinction. As a matter of fact, in the last decades the population of seals has tripled.
The campaigns had the effect of boosting prohibitions on many aspects of the seal commerce, especially by the European Union. Those measures expelled the Inuit community from the global economy from the beginning of the 80s. The bans included an exception for the Inuit, to whom was granted the right to hunt seals in their territory; but the campaign against the seal derivatives, particularly coats, left the clothes sold by Inuit in Canada and abroad as a product frowned upon and almost without value.
The film shows how the movement against seal hunting has prevented the Inuit from practicing their traditional way of live, and how it is plunging them into dire poorness. The situation is increasingly tragic. There are many suicides among Inuit people, and hunger is devastating. As in other indigenous populations, for instance Australian aborigines, many people have become dependent of Govern welfare.
Nowadays there are plans to draw fossil resources –petrol, gas– from the Inuit territory. The Western world, morally satisfied with its campaigns against seal hunt, will be the responsible of a terrible environmental degradation in the Arctic. If this plans are implemented, many animal populations will be brutally decimated.
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, the Inuk director of the film, shows the situation in a clear and well-researched way. She denounces the unconsciousness and lack of knowledge of distant Governments legislating on hunt without being informed about the real situation in the Arctic. She tries to create a public discussion with animal rights groups, but founds that these associations avoid any attempt to clarify facts and appearing in TV discussing with her or any Inuit representative. They want to go on with their media campaigns without listening to the Arctic people who bear the brunt of the bans. These associations don’t answer the e-mails she sends to them, shun any public debate and even don’t appear in demonstrations when they know the Inuit will be there just to talk.
The conclusion underlined in the film is that the campaigns against hunting have become an industry in themselves, which renders much money to the animal groups: donations from people moved by the images of killed seal pups are huge. That’s why the groups don’t want to tackle the question in a serious way, even though the lies they have been spreading cause the end of Inuit culture and life.