Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Discriminatory banning practices

Anyone who gives a toss one way or the other about Canada's annual seal hunt is paying attention to the actions of the European Union (EU) right now to see if they will indeed ban Canadian seal products from both being sold in their member countries and being shipped through their countries, making it difficult to get the products to countries like Russia, one of Canada's largest markets for seal products. 

Yesterday the EU's Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas announced a bill that he is pushing through the union to implement such a ban on products derived from countries with hunts that "practice cruel hunting methods." There was a major exception, however: seal products from traditional Inuit hunters. There is something about this that doesn't sit right with me.

I admit right away to being pretty ignorant to traditional Inuit seal-hunting practices, but is it any more humane than the methods white hunters use?  Granted, if only Inuit hunted seals, there would be a lot less seals killed, but from what I can gather from anti-hunt protesters, they don't care if the number of seals killed decreases — they don't want them killed at all.

I don't think bans should be implemented on seal products one way or another — as long as a sustainable hunt is carried out, I fail to see how the seal hunt is any different than killing cows, chickens, or pigs in slaughter houses. At least these seals have a chance at living to see another day, and know freedom — a cow in a slaughter house is going to die before it's time regardless of whether it ends up on your plate, covering your back, or killed off for being defective. 

That being said, I don't see why special privileges should be given to Inuit hunters in this scenario. The EU isn't putting a ban on the hunt — if they included Inuit hunters in the ban they wouldn't be taking away a traditional food or clothing source for the Inuit, or destroying an ancient way of life. They just wouldn't be able to sell or ship their products to EU countries, thereby possibly destroying their livelihoods, like they will for the non-Inuit hunters. 

Does the EU think Inuit are too stupid or ignorant to find other means of employment? What about the non-Inuit hunters who don't have any other vocational training, and maybe didn't even finish grade school? Yes, there are significantly less Aboriginal people with post-secondary training in Canada than non-Aboriginals, but the numbers are slowly getting better.

My theory — and I recognize that I could be way off base with this, but hear me out — is that the EU fears Inuit and Aboriginal protests if they include Inuit hunt products in the ban. In order to avoid appearing racist, they will allow Inuit products to come through. But in efforts to avoid being labeled as bigots, they are actually discriminating against non-Aboriginal hunters for not being Aboriginal. That's like cops pulling over everyone who isn't black to avoid appearing as though they use racial profiling. 

If I had my way, no seal product bans would pass in the EU, but as it's becoming more and more likely that a ban is imminent, I believe all seal products should be banned and no allowances made for the colour of your skin or how long your ancestors have lived in this country.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Spot on, Katie. Spot on.