Inuk filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril explores the negative effects of seal hunting bans on tribes in Arctic Canada by showing its role in food, fashion and the economy. This artfully produced film invites rethinking around a controversial topic.
[boy speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]I love spring.
Some of my earliest memories are of seal hunting as a family.
Peering out over the water,
hoping for a seal to surface.
I'm visiting my relative, Joannie,
and his grandson, Isuaqtuq.
And they've been kind enough to bring me out seal hunting
at the floe edge.
-[speaking foreign language] -[whistling]
[speaking foreign language]
[speaking foreign language]
[Alethea] At some point in my childhood,
I realized there are people out there
who don't like seal hunting.
Every spring, I'd watch people on the news
call seal hunters horrible things.
[Joannie speaking foreign language]
Yes, okay. Bye.
-[woman] -[camera clicks]
[man speaking foreign language]
-[Aaju speaks foreign language] -[Alethea laughs]
-That's them eating seal meat? -Yeah.
[Alethea] That's a proud Inuk photo.
Their grandfather used to come home with the seal
and they would just like...
Huskies, dive right into the meat.
-No kidding. -Everything was just...
-Head first, apparently. -[both laugh]
[Aaju] It would be scary in any other culture,
-but to us it's like very cute. -So cute.
[Alethea] I wanted to make this film
because it bothered me when I saw animal welfare groups
portray seal hunting as an evil and greedy thing.
The images and statements they put out
don't reflect the seal hunting I know.
They don't even mention Inuit.
And my friend, Aaju Peter, is fighting to change that.
Aaju is a seal skin clothing designer, a lawyer,
and long-time activist for Inuit seal hunting rights.
When I came here, I learned how to work with seal skin.
My mother-in-law was always sewing,
and I wanted to learn how to work with seal skin,
and I was able to sew beautiful seal skin products.
It allowed me to stay home and raise my children from home.
These are two different kinds of seal.
This is harp seal and this is ringed seal.
This is the kind of coat I would want if I were...
a seal in the Arctic.
Seal skin dyes really nicely.
And I find the harp seal ones are just really classy
because you can still see their spots at the bottom.
So I took this part from here,
and the center part
I took from the center, obviously, which is darker,
and turned it into a shawl.
And it's very simple.
I like simple designs.
You want to see the big mitts?
[Alethea] Yes, I want to see everything.
The big mitts would also have the same idea,
where you have the big sealskin,
and then you could line it with the sheared beaver,
the kind of beaver here,
to make it nice and warm.
[Alethea]I know a lot of Inuit like Aaju,
who depend on sealskin sales for their livelihood.
Our economic options are very few,
so the sealskin market is extremely important to us.
Unfortunately, we have fewer and fewer places
to sell our products,
because animal groups have been fighting since the 1960s
to shut down the sealskin trade.
Anti-sealing campaigns focus almost entirely
on the spring hunt around Newfoundland
in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Southern Canada.
They try to convince everyone that this hunt is cruel
and that the problems with it are unfixable.
They argue that the only way to address their concerns
is to totally ban trade in sealskin.
But regardless of how you feel about that hunt,
most seal hunters in Canada, and the world,
are actually Inuit.
We hunt seals all around the Canadian Arctic,
as well as Alaska, Greenland and Russia.
But animal groups make it sound like sealskins
all come from that one spring hunt
in the South of Canada.
They call it "The Canadian Seal Hunt",
or even just "The Seal Hunt",
which completely fails to acknowledge
that Inuit are an important part of the sealskin market.
We need to remind the world we exist.
But it's difficult to get our message heard
cause anti-sealing protests tend to be loud and confrontational,
whereas Inuit anger is much quieter.
In the old days, if someone upset you,
you'd insult them with a satiric song.
Then they take a turn with the drum and tease you back.
It's kind of like a modern day rap battle,
but Inuk style, so more quiet and slow.
You go back and forth until laughter replaced the tension.
And if you lost your temper, you'd loose the battle.
Because loosing your temper
can be a sign of a guilty conscience.
The song battles are long gone,
but we still try to stay calm and reasonable
when we're upset.
How does a culture with an understated anger
fight against a group that's infamous
for the exact opposite behavior?
[speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]How could these groups work for so many decades
to crush our industry
without ever having seen it with their own eyes?
[speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]Anti-sealers have carefully developed the image
of commercial sealing as a massive and evil operation.
And they say it's inherently inhumane.
But for us, this is what commercial sealing
mostly looks like.
[speaking foreign language]
[woman speaking foreign language]
[Alethea] I've seen many campaigns
argue that sealing should end
because it's not moral to kill a seal just for the fur.
They say fur is shame and a frivolous luxury.
But Inuit defy that argument, 'cause we eat the meat.
And for us, a warm coat is not a luxury,
it's necessary for day-to-day survival.
When I look at sealskin,
I see an ethical and sustainable economy
that feeds people.
Natural fur also keeps our hunters afloat
if they fall through the ice,
which is happening more often due to climate change.
Once the sealskins are cleaned and dried,
the last step is to clean off the oil residue
by rubbing them on the snow.
[Lasaloosie speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]Lasaloosie has been selling sealskins
his whole life.
And is still one of the most active sealers in his community.
-[speaking foreign language] -Mm.
[Alethea]Since our hunters live in tiny remote communities
and don't necessarily speak English,
the government of Nunavut arranges for a wildlife officer
in each community
to buy skins from hunters throughout the year.
Then, the government collects all the skins
from all the communities
and combines them for sale at international auction
on the hunters' behalf.
This is how Inuit take part
in the global commercial sealskin market.
This allows us to continue our traditions
and take part in the modern world.
It was our main economy for over a hundred years.
But in 1983, everything changed.
[speaking foreign language]
The International Fund for Animal Welfare
and other groups put out intense anti-sealing campaigns
throughout the 1970s and '80s.
As a result, in 1983, the European Union
banned products made from whitecoat harp seal pups.
Even though the legislation only targeted one type
of sealskin, that we don't even sell,
the campaigns ruined the reputation
for all types of sealskin,
and the whole market crashed immediately.
It was our Great Depression.
I wanna talk to someone who lived through this.
So I've gone to see Lasaloosie.
It's a typical February day at -32°C.
-46° with the wind chill.
I'm an urban Inuk, so Aaju lent me her warm hunting gear.
I'm bundled up in layers of seal,
caribou and wolf fur.
Lasaloosie says it's a pretty nice day,
so he's just wearing his lighter fabric parka.
[speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]The '83 ban was a life-altering event for Inuit.
I grew up in the aftermath.
[Alethea]Suicide was once a rare thing in our communities,
but as a result of the trauma from residential school abuse,
forced relocations and other destructive government policies,
Inuit began taking their own lives
at alarming rates in the 1970s.
When the ban hit in '83,
it was yet another layer of stress on our communities,
causing widespread hunger and hardship.
Within a year, our suicide rates spiked even higher
and have been among the worst in the world ever since.
To this day, we're still working to undo the damage.
It took us 25 years
to repair the reputation of sealskins and rebuild demand.
Sealskin prices climbed back up to about $100 per skin,
which is almost enough to make a living on.
I grew up thinking
the poverty and hunger I see around me every day is normal.
To think this hard-earned recovery
could actually relieve some of this hardship
makes me so hopeful.
Unfortunately, the anti-sealers are still at it.
And they're now pushing the European Union
to pass a new ban
that's even worse than the last one.
It would reject all seal products.
So that means all types of sealskin,
and even the meat and oil.
[sighs] I can't believe these headlines.
"Under the proposed ban, seal products
would not be allowed into the 27 nation block.
Inuit leaders from Canada and Greenland
swiftly condemn the draft legislation
despite a special exemption
for products from traditional Inuit sealers."
I don't even know what they mean by "traditional".
Everywhere I look online right now,
the anti-sealers keep pointing to this exemption,
but they know very well that the 1983 ban
also had an exemption for Inuit,
and it did nothing to protect us.
Soon, EU parliamentarians will be voting on the new ban.
And we hope to convince them to vote against it.
[Aaju] I love sealskin.
[Aaju]I love coming to...
my own backyard.
There's no trees here
and everything is frozen.
And this is the context of our life
which is so far removed from animalists and people
making decisions on hunting seal.
A hunter is coming in on his snow machine.
He's been out there for hours, maybe even days.
And I'm hoping that he caught a seal.
That will provide food for his family
and others in this community.
It is a very harsh environment.
And we should be allowed to eat our food
and continue our culture and our tradition,
which we are very, very proud of.
Those guys are so tough.
Man, I'm so glad I wasn't born a man.
I would have to endure that...
cold. Oh man, that's tough!
I'd deliver a baby any day
than going hunting like the men do.
[Alethea]We're just days away from the EU vote.
Aaju and a few volunteers are heading to Europe
to stand up for our fellow Inuit.
Natsiq is a fellow seamstress,
Meeka is a hunter and dog team owner.
And Joshua is the head of the Iqaluit Hunters Association.
Upon their arrival,
we're surprised to see giant anti-sealing campaigns
The International Fund for Animal Welfare
have a humongous inflatable seal balloon.
And The Humane Society International
set up a jumbo TV with anti-sealing adds.
[man] You're not in favor of a ban on seals?
[speaking foreign language]
We see the catastrophe coming.
But in the legislation that we will vote at noon,
there is an exception for Inuit people.
So they can go on, it's for their personal use,
with killing seals.
And that's the only exception
to preserve the people of the Inuit.
For me, the exception is of no use
because once the commercial hunt goes down,
once the price goes down,
we won't be-- he won't be able to make any money
off the seals on which he depends.
On which he and his wife depend.
So whether the exception is there or not,
we are being affected without our will.
-[man] I will think about it. -[Aaju] Thank you.
-[man] All the best. -[Aaju] Thank you.
[Alethea]Why is this guy still talking about personal use?
Aaju is telling him
that she sells sealskin clothes for a living.
The EU parliamentarians seem to be having a really hard time
understanding that we're part of the commercial market.
They're still picturing little Eskimos in igloos
with no need for money.
[speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]Aaju and the hunters are handing out pamphlets,
and standing right beside them are anti-sealing campaigners
handing out little white baby seal dolls.
-That's very kind, thank you. -[woman] That's all right.
It'll go to my granddaughter in America.
Oh, how lovely.
[Alethea]It's been illegal to hunt whitecoats in Canada
for 30 years now.
But they keep using images of them,
deliberately misleading the public.
We now know they've been here for months,
giving out thousands of these white dolls.
[Alethea] These are huge organizations
with so much money to spread misinformation.
And here we are, with no resources to fight it.
-[applause] -[speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]As we wait for the parliamentarians to vote,
we can see how few of them we've been able to reach.
It's us versus the little white seal dolls,
and we see a lot of dolls in the room.
[speaker speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]Since no one thought to ask Inuit
to be a part of the discussion,
we didn't stand a chance
of stopping this ban from happening.
[speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]When animal groups pretend we don't exist,
or that we're frozen in time
and untouched by the modern economy,
this is what happens.
I feel for Joshua.
As the leader of his hunters association,
it's plain to see he feels the weight of responsibility.
[Joshua speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]They could have chosen a certification program
based on Animal Welfare standards.
They could have regulated things
such as killing methods or quotas,
boat size or daily cash limits.
But, instead, they chose the harshest option,
designed to crush the entire market.
Now, we have no choice but to try to overturn the ban.
[speaking foreign language]
[Alethea]Aaju is talking to the National Inuit Association
to discuss our legal options.
I want to confront the anti-sealers.
They keep saying this new ban isn't targeting us.
But after the last ban,
sales dropped from approximately 30,000 skins a year
down to less than 1,000.
What makes them think it's gonna be any different this time?
So I've been looking at all the major anti-sealing campaigns
and the same names keep popping up over and over again.
There's only a handful of them.
I've left them all messages asking for interviews,
which to Inuit are the icons of anti-sealing.
But, while I was looking up Greenpeace,
this radio interview from 1978 popped up on YouTube.
And in it, Paul Watson, a former Greenpeace leader,
talks about why he left the organization.
Listen to this.
[Alethea] That was over 30 years ago,
when the Atlantic Harp Seal population
was around two million.
Today, it's nearly eight million.
But lots of campaigns still imply
that seals are endangered to raise money.
Like these ones from PETA,
using the slogan "save the seals".
But nobody can argue that harp seals
are endangered with any kind of honesty.
I guess it was too hard to resist all that easy money,
because shortly after that interview,
Paul Watson started his own animal organization,
the Sea Shepherd Society.
He went right back to anti-sealing,
and is using the same misleading imagery to this day.
Aaju's convinced the collective of Inuit organizations
to launch two lawsuits to try to overturn the ban
through EU courts.
I think, when I was asked why I wanted to go to law school,
my... one of my reasons was that
I would like to be able to explain
the Western laws that are affecting Inuit way of life
in a language that the elders can understand.
It wasn't necessarily because I wanted to be a lawyer.
I'm not a practicing lawyer.
But I wanted to understand
how come there's so much injustice in this world,
and is there a way that we can change it?
I didn't suddenly wake up and think,
"Oh, I wanna be an advocate and I want to be poor forever
and just fight for Inuit rights."
It didn't happen like that.
But I think I had a very strong
sense of what was right and wrong.
I think people should be allowed to speak their own language
and have their own culture
and live their own lives in this beautiful country.
[Alethea]It's been about a year since the new ban was passed.
Before the ban,
Inuit were selling around 60,000 skins a year.
Now we're selling less than half of that number.
And the prices for each skin
fell from around 100 dollars down to about ten dollars.
That's just the raw skins.
There are also the losses on finished products
made from sealskins,
like mitts, boots and coats.
I also cringe when I think of how much less meat
people are bringing home to their families.
We are already the most food insecure
indigenous people in any developed country,
with seven in ten Inuit children going to school hungry.
In all of North America,
our region has the highest poverty and unemployment rates,
and the highest cost of living.
When I tell Southerners that we're sometimes paying
twenty-eight dollars for a cabbage,
eight-two dollars for 12 cans of ginger ale,
and 18 dollars for a jar of Cheez Whiz,
With 50 dollars in hand,
an Inuit hunter could choose to buy a tiny amount of junk food,
or he could buy fuel to go hunting,
bringing enough seal meat to feed his entire extended family.
Fresh, local, wild, organic seal meat
that's more nutritious and healthy
than any meat you can buy at the store.
That's why the sealskin market is so important.
It's not just about tradition for us.
Hunting is still the best way to feed Inuit.
And the cash from sealskins keeps that cycle going.
When that cycle is interrupted,
the pressure to look at other economic options increases.
And we have very few options.
For example, the Canadian Government
is proposing underwater seismic testing
around Baffin Island, my home,
to explore offshore oil and gas reserves,
putting extreme stress on several of our communities.
We're not talking about a tiny island here.
Baffin Island is about twice the size of the UK.
Seismic testing involves underwater explosions
at decibel levels that studies have shown to cause damage
to the hearing of marine mammals.
These explosions happen every ten seconds
for hundreds of kilometers.
Niore Iqalukjuak is from Clyde River,
one of the biggest sealing communities that was hardest hit
by the seal product bans.
He's speaking out about seismic testing
because his community has seen it before.
[speaking foreign language]
[Alethea] Even in the face of poverty,
Niore's community has been fighting for 45 years
to protect one of the most delicate ecosystems
on the planet
from one of the most destructive industries.
All this time, instead of getting help
from animal and environment groups,
his community's main sustainable economy
has been under attack.
Ironically, by fighting to save the seals,
all these groups have inadvertently
put all the Arctic animals,
not to mention us humans, at higher risk.
I'm amazed Niore can speak with such a calm and clear voice,
because the whole thing makes me wanna scream.
It's been a while since I contacted all those groups
and I never got a response.
One of the names I see in the media a lot is Rebecca Aldworth
who's the go to anti-sealing person for the various chapters
of the Humane Society.
She's the one who organized the photoshoot
with Paul McCartney and his wife, Heather Mills,
which got a lot of media attention.
It's campaigns like that
that have helped them be really successful.
They've got over 200 million dollars in assets now.
They're definitely one of the bigger animal groups.
So I'm gonna try contacting Rebecca Aldworth directly.
Aaju is going to Europe again.
Last time she went, it was just days before the vote
on the seal product ban.
And the parliamentarians had already made up their minds.
This time, she's going well before decisions are made
on our lawsuits.
Since we are traveling to Europe
as ambassadors and educators
on behalf of Inuit, Nunavut and Canada and...
[Alethea] What's even more awesome,
a younger generation is joining us in the fight.
A group of Inuit political science students
based in Ottawa
are going on a speaking tour through Europe.
Aaju and I are helping them prepare their presentations
to EU parliamentarians and ambassadors.
[Alethea]Aaju's got lots of meetings and media interviews
lined up in Stockholm and Copenhagen.
The students are going to Paris and Brussels.
Hopefully, the Inuit message can reach enough people
before the EU court decides on our lawsuits.
We're in Brussels right now.
We're waiting for a very important meeting
to talk about seal issues, polar bear issues
and climate change.
This legislation is not based on the fact that
we treat our animals well, that we do sustainable hunting.
I'm gonna need your help in finding ways
to reverse this legislation.
I want to keep the dialogue open with the Europeans
on how we can move forward from here.
The exemption is inhibiting us
to have a sustainable way of life.
We wanna get the word out that, you know,
we exist in this world and they're trying to take away
all our rights.
I would like to introduce you to Ms. Jaakonsaari, Mr. Tarand,
who are both members of the European Parliament.
At the bare minimum, we ask that you educate your people and...
on how the propaganda that
the animal rights groups are spreading and really,
all we really ask is economic equality.
And to achieve that, we have to stop the cultural prejudice
that is imposed on us by not being allowed to...
benefit from our natural surroundings
without having to drill into the ground,
and that's really all we want as a people.
Thank you for inviting us here today.
I do have my understanding for your situation.
We try to do our best how to...
how to change this whole decision.
Actually, I don't know how it's possible, but...
I can ask the commission to do its utmost
in order to correct this kind of decision.
[Indrek] I mustn't tell you really, but...
you have been lobbying more impressively
than the Canadian embassy has been able to do on me
in four years actually.
Sealing is sustainable, sealskins are sustainable.
What you did not say, but what one could add is,
will the alternative,
to have an artificial fur coat...
An artificial fur coat is made of oil...
a not renewable resource.
And you have a hell of a trouble
when you try to get rid of it.
-[man] You love nature? -[woman] Yes.
Oh, my good man. No, no, no, no.
I'm not afraid of anything.
But if you publish it, I will be a dead man walking.
-Despite my looks, I don't bite. -[laughter]
-[woman] Maybe I do. -[laughter]
[Aaju] This is the North Pole.
This is Greenland.
And I would have been born here,
many years ago.
This whole area is where Inuit live.
But they were colonized by four nation states.
Canadian Arctic being colonized by Canadians, see?
And the Americans here,
and Danes here.
But we remained the same people. One language, one culture,
but different influences.
[woman] The first time I saw this projection of a world map
was in a seminar on peace and war.
And then, the lecturer said,
"This will be the most strategic area
of the world in the future."
Due to the encounter of continents, to the minerals
and other things beneath the sea.
This area is very, very rich in minerals,
in oil and gas.
It will provide a lot of richness
if you are to mine it,
but we do not wish to be materially wealthy
if it's gonna mean the destruction of this area.
I don't want to be. We want to do it safely.
Of course we want to make money,
we want to be a part of the economy.
We want our people to take part in this.
But it has to be done safely.
I think we have to listen to
the people who have been the guardians of this Earth,
because we can't just up and leave to another Earth.
We have to safeguard the Earth that we live on.
[Alethea] This trip has been encouraging,
because it's plain to see that Europeans do care about Inuit.
But it's also becoming obvious
that the so called "Inuit exemption"
actually makes this fight harder for us.
The Inuit lawsuits against the EU
are working their way through the courts.
In the meantime, there's another protest coming up
on the International Day of Protest Against Seal Hunting.
Calling all Inuit:
Animal rights activists are planning to protest
against seal hunting in Toronto on March 13th, 2013.
If you are in Toronto, or you're willing to come to Toronto,
please come and join us, whether you are Inuk
or just a supporter of Inuit hunting rights.
We're gonna go try to crash their protest
with a little mini counter-protest, I guess.
Or at least go and see if we can have a conversation with them.
'Cause I'm curious, you know.
I've never really met these anti-sealers face to face.
And I have some questions I wanna ask them, you know.
Do they even think about Inuit sealing? Do they...
Do they ever consider
how we're affected by these protests?
So, this particular protest was organized by IFAW.
But, today, IFAW's main anti-sealing rep
is Sheryl Fink.
I see her face and name a lot.
And I've been trying to get a hold of her
through their website contact form.
But I've been getting no response,
so it'll be really cool
if I get to meet her in person at this protest.
Awesome! "Roselynn Akulukjuk commented on your status:
'Cool! I'll see you there.'" Yay!
So at least we'll have like five Inuit. [chuckles]
We'll see who shows up.
-[indistinct speech] -[laughter]
[Alethea] The same Inuit students
that went to Europe saw my Facebook post.
And the whole class is heading from Ottawa
to Toronto on a bus.
I just wanted to remind you
that we don't have to behave the way other protesters behave.
Just be true to yourself.
Remember how your parents
and your grandparents would want you to behave.
And we are there to remind Canadians
that this does affect us, you know.
Often people misunderstand
and think, "Oh, there are exemptions for Inuit,"
and that we're not affected.
But we need to remind Canadians that we are affected.
In the places where they live,
in Europe or Southern Canada or America
they torture animals,
they eat tortured animals every day.
But we don't.
That's just a point I wanted to make.
[Alethea] You'll be making that point lots today, I'm sure.
They're kind of like busting our whole economy.
We will be forced into mining our minerals
because there has been so much opposition from the Inuit side,
and they know that they need our vote
to be able to go up there.
And if we don't have any sort of economy to support ourselves,
we'll have to go and do that.
[Alethea] Remember to take lots of pictures today,
so we can post stuff on Facebook.
If it's not on Facebook or YouTube, it didn't happen.
[car horn beeps]
-[cheering] -[car horns beeping]
Help our economy grow!
Help us overturn the seal ban!
[Alethea] Today is the International Day of Action
Against Seal Hunting,
and so we, as Inuit, wanted to gather
and kind of do a little bit of a counter protest
to educate people.
And so, we decided to come down here,
to one of the busiest street corners in the country
to reach as many people as we could.
[chanting] What's the big deal? We eat seal!
What's the big deal? We eat seal!
What's the big deal? We eat seal!
What the big deal?
[Alethea] It's just frustrating
to hear about laws being passed banning sealskin
when leather and sheepskin
and all kinds of stuff like that are allowed to be sold.
It just feels discriminatory.
[singing in foreign language and drumming]
Supporting our seals, not the European Union.
It's about us!
When we have pressures from massive companies
that wanna bring in uranium mines
in caribou calving grounds,
and it's so frustrating when we're fighting those fights
to be attacked on the sealing issue,
which is not a threat at all.
[chanting] I tried seal, so should you!
I tried seal, so should you!
And it tasted great!
[chanting] We eat seal...
[singing in foreign language and clapping]
So, we're here to defend our right to hunt seals,
but we also want to have a better relationship
with environmental groups
and animal rights groups because, believe it or not,
we're on the same side.
Thank you guys that was awesome. How was your first protest?
[cheering and applause]
[Alethea]Before this, I thought maybe the animal groups
weren't getting my interview requests.
But I traveled over 2,000 kilometers to see them.
And they didn't even show up to their own event
once they heard we were coming.
Clearly, they are deliberately avoiding us.
Our legal challenges to the ban are nearing their end,
and we're doing what we can to make our voices heard.
Aaju has organized a seal celebration day.
And my friend, Carline Areal,
has organized a petition to overturn the ban.
[man] Blizzard warning in effect.
Blizzard ending late this morning, then snowing.
Wind southerly, 50, casting to 70,
diminishing to 30 late this morning
and then becoming light late this afternoon.
[Alethea]Today, despite all our hard work,
the EU courts announced their decision
on the Inuit lawsuits against the seal ban,
and it didn't go our way.
They couldn't defend their decision
based on animal welfare
or conservation standards,
so they say they based it on "moral grounds".
Because, apparently, sealing offends Europeans.
In the EU court's press release,
they included a sentence stating that this decision
"helps the Inuit".
I don't understand how they figure
rejecting a lawsuit launched by us, helps us.
Aaju is in Ottawa to meet with lawyers about the results.
Just because a million or a billion people do something,
and pass a legislation, it doesn't make it right.
And it will never, ever make it right.
Against 32,000 Inuit, for instance.
And you're up against billions of people.
It still doesn't make it right, even if it's majority.
It's still wrong.
"We don't care if you starve to death...
or if you die of this.
We are more interested in the seals."
[Alethea] Here we are, feeling so insignificant,
they were only able to pass that legislation
and reject this claim today,
because they put in wording saying,
"But the Inuit are okay. We respect them."
They know that,
if the general public knew that we're affected,
they would not be able to pass this ban.
That gives me inspiration that we have a shot.
I think we really need to up our game
with the social media stuff.
We need to learn to understand their language.
[Alethea]How does a tiny, remote population
change the minds of a billion people?
How do we do it with no money,
when animal groups are spending millions a year,
working against us?
How do we do it when our anger is too quiet and soft
to get anyone's attention?
Spring is coming soon,
and with it comes the annual anti-sealing bonanza.
I've been putting my little tweets out there,
but it's just not enough.
Then, just when I was wondering how to make something go viral,
Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Oscars.
During the awards, she took a celebrity-packed selfie picture.
Her Oscars selfie
became the most retweeted photo of all time.
The photo was taken on a Samsung device.
And Samsung agreed to donate a dollar for every retweet
to a charity of Ellen's choice.
Ellen is against seal hunting
and choose to donate 1.5 million dollars
to the Humane Society of the United States.
As if they didn't have enough money already.
Now, one of the richest anti-sealing groups
is getting attention
from one of the biggest events in social media history,
just as anti-sealing season is starting up for the year.
But then, a young Inuk woman made a YouTube video
and addressed it directly to Ellen.
And it's getting some media attention, so...
Check it out.
Ellen, my name is Killaq Enuarad-Strauss.
I own sealskin boots and they are super cute.
And I'm proud to say that I own them.
But I also eat seal meat more times than I can count.
So when you said, let me quote,
“Seal hunting is one of the most atrocious
and inhumane acts against animals
allowed by any government. ”
Personally, I was hurt.
With the words that you use,
suddenly a huge part of your fan base
is targeting us as a people.
It isn't fair.
On three, say "sealfie". One, two, three.
-[all] Sealfie! -[camera clicks]
[Alethea] Inspired by Killaq's video,
my friend Laquluk and I
were talking about what else we could do.
And she suggested we make a play on the word "selfie",
and post Sealfies,
pictures of ourselves wearing sealskin.
Or hunting or eating seals.
It's a cheeky but positive way
to bring awareness to the fact that
Inuit are affected by anti-sealing campaigns.
So we posted our own Sealfies,
we got in touch with local media,
and put out a call for other Inuit to join us
and use the hashtag #Sealfie. And Inuit are responding.
The Sealfies are going great.
But the extreme anti-sealers have found us.
And our tiny little corner of the Internet has exploded
with hateful messages.
My friend, Tania Tega, posted a Sealfie
of her cute chubby baby
next to a freshly cut seal.
And somebody Photoshopped her baby being skinned alive.
Some of the messages that my friends and I are receiving
are truly shocking.
It always catches me off guard. [clears throat]
You're going to be able to see my eyes. [sniffs]
[Alethea speaking foreign language]
-[baby coos] -[speaking foreign language]
The media requests about Sealfies keep coming.
And today, Aaju and I got an invitation from Al Jazeera,
which is a big network that broadcasts around the world.
They want us to speak to Rebecca Aldworth from The Humane Society
on a live show, and she's actually agreed.
This is my best shot so far
at having a conversation with her. How much do you wanna bet
she's gonna talk about subsistence hunting?
-[speaking foreign language] -[women laugh]
Better make sure my sealskin earrings are ready to go.
We're indoors so...
I'm not gonna wear a seal coat or mitts,
but I've got to have something sealskin.
I was really excited to finally have
a chance to talk to Rebecca Aldworth
from The Humane Society.
And, unfortunately, last night, she cancelled.
So, here we are again, ready to have a conversation,
and the other side is just not there.
Uh... Got my earrings.
Aaju, have you seen the Sealfie campaign?
What did you think about it?
Yes I have. I'm very proud of the Inuit
that have come out in large numbers
and posted their garments and their pride
in wearing seal.
Our digital producer, Malika Balow, is here,
and is our bridge to the digital community.
[Malika] We also got a video comment
from The International Fund for Animal Welfare
Have a listen to this.
Hi, my name is Sheryl Fink.
I'm the director of Canadian Wildlife Campaigns
for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
IFAW does not oppose subsistent hunting of seals by Inuit
as a source of food.
We recognize that food security is very important.
Our campaigns are directed against
the commercial slaughter of wildlife
for international trade.
Whether it's elephants being killed for their tusks,
rhinos for their horns, or seals for their skins.
That is a sort of hunting that is shown to be
unsustainable over the long term.
Thanks for letting us make this clarification.
[Malika]So, Alethea, several organizations
are talking about their clarifications,
but what are your thoughts on this?
And does that clarification really make a difference
if in the minds of, lets say, those of us here in the State,
we hear about "seal hunting" and we think "bad".
Please notice she said IFAW is not against
Inuit "subsistence hunting".
What she fails to say,
and she knows this,
and all of these animal groups know this,
is that although Inuit hunt primarily for food,
we do also sell skins for commercial income.
So there is a commercial aspect to the Inuit hunt.
And we need to be able to sell those skins
in order to continue hunting.
And when you reduce the amount of hunting that's going on,
that's less food on the table for Inuit.
I just kept thinking, "I wish the people from Humane Society
and IFAW would have shown up."
It would have been a much more interesting call.
The Al Jazeera interview proves once again
how hard it can be
to get a truly balanced discussion on this issue.
Even so, challenging the subsistence only image
seems to be working.
More people are asking about Inuit sealing.
And we can challenge misinformation, but Inuk style.
I've been disappointed so many times on this issue,
that I try not to get excited about anything.
But something good has happened.
When Inuit think of anti-sealing,
we think of Greenpeace.
And today, Greenpeace apologized for the damage they've done
to the Inuit economy and culture.
The apology isn't perfect,
but it's a step in the right direction
for them to admit they harmed us.
And that they'll work to right their wrongs.
They're still talking about being against commercial sealing
as if that doesn't include us.
I guess time will tell if they'll actually do anything
Despite finally getting a few emails back
from a couple of these groups,
I still haven't managed to get any of them on camera.
But, recently, I found an interesting old article
about a woman who used to work for IFAW.
It says she brokered a deal with Southern Canadian sealers,
where IFAW would be given joint power
to decide on their hunt quotas.
And their hunt would become full use.
Meaning all the meat, oil and skins would be used.
But apparently, when she took the deal
to her supervisors at IFAW, she was fired.
I found her on Twitter and she's agreed to Skype with me.
My name is Anamika,
At one point, I worked for The International Fund
for Animal Welfare, for about...
Twelve, thirteen years, if I recall correctly.
They were perpetuating a picture of...
sealers and a seal hunt
that really was not in line with reality.
So I started changing my mind a little bit.
And the sealers...
wanted the same thing as we did.
That is a full utilization hunt.
We brokered a deal.
I brought it to my bosses and shortly after, I was fired.
Over the years, I've become convinced
that animal welfare and animal rights organizations
are not really interested in ending any of these things.
Especially the Canadian seal hunt,
because it brings in millions of dollars.
Was there much conversation, ever, about Inuits
and how Inuit were affected by these campaigns?
Nobody wanted to talk about...
the fact that Inuit were...
just as much, if not more, affected by the European ban
as the sealers were.
It's amazing to hear you say that, 'cause of course,
I suspect that they knew.
I don't know if you heard this in the news, but...
Greenpeace apologized to Inuit.
Did they, really? Wow.
-I'm shocked. [laughs] -They should.
I can imagine, yes.
I wanna take an opportunity right now
to apologize for my role,
while I worked for IFAW,
in this whole thing, because I am really...
embarrassed, and I'm very sorry
that I actually was part of all this.
And I feel really-- To this day, it still...
it still weighs heavily on me.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry.
It's happy tears.
I'm-- Okay, that's good.
-Yeah. -No, seriously, I've always...
As I said, to this day, it still weighs heavily on me.
If there's anything I can do, please let me know.
Well, I'm glad you found me.
[Alethea]After all these years of chasing anti-sealers
and feeling invisible,
it was so nice to talk to Anamika.
She confirmed they've known about us all along.
Last time I was in Kimmirut,
Isuaqtuq was a little boy
tagging along with his grandfather.
Now, he's 13 years old, and he's a hunter in his own right.
He's providing for his community and it makes me proud.
He and my son inspire me
to keep sharing information respectfully,
and trust that we'll eventually turn the tide.
It's time for a new model of animal activism.
And I hope the world will see
that we, as Inuit, should be a part of it.