Seal hunting is bad for all, right? That’s what well-funded activists have successfully argued in the media and on the global legal stage for decades, effectively banning the international sale of seal skins and meat.
But for the indigenous people of Canada who’ve relied on sustainable seal harvests for time immemorial, those ill-informed campaigns and the resulting legislation chain them to abject poverty. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s documentary shows this side of the debate and how it affects her people.
You have known about the seal hunting situation your whole life. When and why did you realize that it would make a compelling film?
One day I realized that the frustration I’ve felt my whole life about the Inuit voice not being heard was actually an asset in pitching a film. Broadcasters and festivals love to hear from a new perspective, especially on controversial subjects.
Were there any particular challenges in making a film on a topic you felt so strongly about and were also involved with?
Knowing what needed to be said and what is obvious and doesn’t have to be said for an audience that is nothing like me or my community is very hard.
What advice would you give to other small, underfunded groups when they are fighting against larger, well-funded entities?
Time will tell if this advice is useful, but here are my tactics:
Learn their language. Watch how they play with semantics to distort the conversation, and disrupt that strategy. Show up. Ask them questions. Be reasonable even when they’re not. Find out how they get their money and focus on interrupting the narrative that garners them donations.
What is the current state of affairs, both legally with regards to hunting and for your people in general?
All of the legislation that affects our market is still in place. We cannot trade in America at all, and although an exception technically allows us to trade in Europe, we haven’t sold a single skin to Europe since the ban was put in place. We are still the poorest and most food-insecure population in North America.
On a lighter note, what does seal meat taste like?
Heaven. Health. Richness. My husband says it has the texture and some of the taste of slow-roasted pork. I think it’s a cross between the flavour of seafood and the most succulent steak you’ve ever had.
What do you hope will happen with the film?
I hope Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Reynolds, Paul McCartney, and the many, many other celebrities who have condemned seal hunting and helped the animal groups raise money on the issue see the film. They enable our oppression, and I hope they will see the issue is not black and white, and that the majority of the people they affect are Inuit living in poverty who eat the meat.