Angry seal ‘helps’ Australian police bust drug smuggling ring

An international drug smuggling ring was busted in Australia — with the help of an angry seal.

The seal prevented the getaway of two foreign nationals from a small island off the Geraldton coast, according to reports.

“They woke it up and it jumped up with its big chest out and bellowed at them,” Damien Healy, Geraldton Volunteer Marine Rescue Service vice commander, told ABC radio, according to the BBC.

“The guys basically had the choice of going through the seal or getting arrested and they ended up choosing getting arrested.”

The two foreigners were on a yacht that they ran aground on Sept. 2 before they attempted to flee in a dinghy, officials said. They were caught the next day after the seal interceded.

Cops seized one ton of illicit drugs after their arrests.

Two other foreign nationals and an Australian appeared in court in connection with the seizure on Thursday.

“We have disrupted a big international drug syndicate here,” Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.

Seal meat takes centre stage at Quebec culinary festival

Chefs say food hypocrisy has no place at their tables

Chef Jean-Philippe Bourassa-Caron serves seal meat for brunch during Seal Fest in Quebec City at Chez Boulay restaurant. Bourassa-Caron’s dish: seal terrine on mushroom purée topped with a bordelaise sauce and poached eggs. (Jane Adey/CBC)


Chef Jean-Philippe Bourassa-Caron prepares poached eggs and a bordelaise sauce for a new feature at his Chez Boulay restaurant in Quebec City.

The sauce and eggs complement an unexpected part of this brunch dish, a meat terrine made with seal.

“I really like to work with seal because it’s a nice taste,” said Bourassa-Caron.

Chez Boulay is one of 20 restaurants in Quebec City, Lévis and Montreal taking part in the second annual Seal Fest, a 10-day culinary festival celebrating seal meat.

Seal terrine (similar to paté) is served with bordelaise sauce, poached eggs and beets at Chez Boulay during Seal Fest 2019. (Jane Adey /CBC)

Bourassa-Caron says he knows some customers might have negative attitudes about the Canadian seal hunt, but he says those attitudes might need to be updated.

“You need to challenge your mind. You need to open your mind and give (it) a try.”

Seal Fest is a promotion by a Quebec company, SeaDNA, which sells seal meat and seal oil capsules, and by the Seals and Sealing Network, a national non-profit organization that promotes sustainable use of seals.

Frozen harp seal meat is harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador. Seal in French is ‘loup marine’ or ‘phoque.’ (Jane Adey/CBC)

Both the federal government and the provincial government of Quebec are supporting the event.

Andy Guffroy, head chef at L’Intimiste restaurant in Lévis, has prepared seal charcuterie for customers to try served with cheese, mussels and figs. He’s keen to expose foodies to seal meat and help educate diners about the hunt.

“I think we are a little bit hypocritical about meat. We go to the grocery stores and we buy the final product. We don’t see where it’s comes from. We don’t have any idea,” he said.

“So when we did research about the seal (hunt) we discovered that it’s very responsible in the way it’s done. It’s the way that needs to be done and there’s nothing horrible about it.”

Restaurant L’Intimiste in Lévis, Que., serves seal charcuterie and seal rillette (a thick meat spread) with cheese, mussels and figs during Seal Fest 2019. (Jane Adey/CBC)

Harp seal is harvested near the Magdalen Islands but most of the meat used during the festival is harvested in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimates the current harp seal population to be 7.4 million animals, almost six times what it was in the 1970s.

“There is some evidence to suggest that the Northwest Atlantic harp seal population may be reaching levels close to its natural carrying capacity, which is the maximum number of individuals of a particular species that can be sustained by that species’ ecosystem,” reads DFO’s website.

Andy Guffroy, head chef at L’ Intimiste restaurant in Quebec, likes to educate customers about wild meat, including seal. (Jane Adey/CBC)

Seal tataki is on the menu at Le Renard et La Chouette. Chef Sarah Arab serves pieces of seal loin, lightly seared and rolled in Nordic shrimp powder she made from shrimp shells and herbs. She says she’s enjoyed learning more about the seal population and how they’re harvested.

“It was pretty eye-opening for me. I was more curious about it, naturally,” said Arab.

Her customers are curious too. Monica Oliver of Toronto sampled the seal tataki at Le Renard et La Chouette.

Chef Sarah Arab prepares seal tataki for Seal Fest 2019. Tataki is a dish consisting of meat or fish steak, served either raw or lightly seared. (Jane Adey/CBC)

“I got to say, it is an amazing dish,” she said, admitting to feeling some trepidation when she saw it on the menu.

“Growing up, it was definitely [the feeling that] seal hunting was very bad. I think Canadians definitely do need to hear both sides of the story and then make their decision.”

Felix Bajeau of Quebec City ordered up a seal meal during the festival too. He said he particularly enjoys eating wild meat.

“My brother is a hunter, so he hunt deers. If you eat meat it’s probably the same as eating beef or pork when you eat seal and maybe it’s even better because the animal lived a happy life in the wild before being eaten,” said Bajeau.

Chef Sarah Arab served the tataki rolled in herb crust and lightly seared, with parsnip purée, anchovy and za’atar vinaigrette with clams. (Jane Adey/CBC)

At Le Pied Bleu restaurant on Rue Saint Vallier in Quebec City, chef Fabrice Quenehen cooks up typical French cuisine inspired by his home in Lyon, France. For Seal Fest, Quenehen made a seal saucisson — or sausage — and served it in a lentil stew with a mushroom and red wine sauce.

“I really enjoyed to cook with this meat,” said Quenehen.

He encourages more chefs to experiment with seal and especially chefs in Newfoundland and Labrador. He says he’d like to see a seal cookbook that helps Canadians understand how to use this particular protein.

Fabrice Quenehen, originally from Lyon, France, is head chef at Le Pied Bleu in Quebec City and known for his cuisine using things like heart, liver, kidneys and glands. During Seal Fest 2019, he prepared seal saucisson for customers. (Jane Adey/CBC)

“We can eat this meat because the population is healthy enough to sustain it,” said Quenehen.

The quota for harp seals in Newfoundland and Labrador is 400,000 animals. In 2018, 60,000 animals were taken from that quota, far fewer than is allowed.

Seal Fest began March 21 and runs until Sunday.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

A pregnant harbor seal was shot in the head and lost an eye. Now she’s going home.

The seal was shot through the head near the San Juan Islands during a fishing derby. She and her unborn seal pup are lucky to be alive.

A pregnant seal, now without its left eye after being shot with a pellet gun, is heading home to the San Juan Islands Sunday after successful surgery and nearly a month of recovery away from the sea.

A fisherman shot the seal through the head near the Sucia Islands late last month, and the creature only endured the initial trauma of the ordeal through luck and quick emergency care.

The feisty one-eyed seal, who goes by “19-0120” among staff caring for her at the PAWS Wildlife Center, is expected to survive her reintroduction to the wild.

Her plight highlights rising tensions between fishermen and federally protected pinnipeds — seals and sea lions — in the Pacific Northwest, as both compete for their catch of fish.

Suspect identified

The harbor seal was shot during a fishing derby, according to Jennifer Olson, the Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator for San Juan County.

Deputies with the San Juan County Sheriff’s office, along with a border patrol agent, were the first to reach the seal the afternoon of the shooting on Jan. 26.

“We received a call that somebody was out shooting a seal with a pellet gun,” said Zac Reimer, the office’s undersheriff. “Another person, who was also fishing, observed this happening right in front of them and gave us a call right away.”

Reimer said the person who reported the shooting was close enough to capture video of the events.

When deputies arrived, the suspect’s boat was still there and the seal was “bobbing around, not acting like a healthy harbor seal,” Reimer said. “It just appeared stunned.”

The animal was so listless that deputies were able to get a rope around the creature and haul it onto their 26-foot patrol boat.

No one was arrested at the scene, but deputies were able to talk to witnesses, take photographs and collect evidence, Reimer said. A 40-year-old man is suspected in the shooting, he said. The man’s boat had remained there with several other people onboard.

“Since we were already on marine patrol, we were able to just go right up to the boats and talk to everybody,” Reimer said.

The evidence is in the hands of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s law-enforcement branch, which is investigating and could pursue federal charges. Violations of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act can result in fines of up to $28,520 along with up to one year of imprisonment.

A rare case of survival

Washington state once financed a bounty hunting program that encouraged people to kill harbor seals in an effort to bolster fishermen’s catch, according to the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife.

With the program’s end in 1960 and the passage of the federal protection act 12 years later, the population of harbor seals began to multiply many times over.

But the recovery of pinnipeds has also spurred an increase in salmon consumption by the creatures, according to a 2017 paper published in Scientific Reports. In 1975, harbor seals ate an estimated 3.5 million chinook salmon. In 2015, that figure rose to 27.4 million chinook, most of them juveniles.

Conflict with people fishing has increased, too.

“There’s certainly frustration out there, at the slow recovery of salmon, and these animals are using those resources that we also rely on,” said Michael Milstein, a NOAA spokesperson.

Researchers examined pinniped stranding data in the Pacific Northwest from 1991 to 2016 in a recent Aquatic Mammals Journal article.

Strandings — when a pinniped comes ashore dead or is alive and unable to return to the water without help — began to rise in the early 2000s, a trend driven, in part, by a rise in the animals being shot, according to the data.

In 25 years of study, 896 harbor seals were found to have been stranded after interacting with people. More than 21 percent of those seals were shot.

Meanwhile, dead sea lions, with bullet holes, have been washing up across Puget Sound shores.

The Whale Museum, where Olson works as a data specialist, tracks marine-mammal strandings in San Juan County.

Since 1980, the museum has counted 39 confirmed cases in which pinnipeds were shot. Most of the cases are identified in necropsies.

“To have a live seal survive the gunshot wound where there’s time to help them, that’s what makes this case rare,” Olson said.

‘Cross our fingers and hope’

Soon after the shooting, the deputies brought the struggling seal to Olson, who loaded the animal into a crate and drove her to the Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on San Juan Island.

“She was moving. I could tell she was alive,” Olson said. But after “giving her a small tap on her back, there was absolutely no response.”

Olson could see entry and exit wounds. Blood and pus were leaking out of the creature’s head, she said. She worried the seal could have suffered brain damage.

Once the seal arrived at Wolf Hollow, Penny Harner, a staff rehabilitator began to treat the “lethargic” animal.

“Basically, all we could do the first night was get some fluids in her, get some medications on board and cross our fingers and hope for the night,” Harner said.

But the next morning, when she flipped the lights, the 128-pound creature stirred and began to look around with her good eye.

When Harner entered the room to treat the seal, “she did what a typical seal would, which was lunge.”

Wolf Hollow staff typically work with injured or orphaned seal pups, but not strong, muscular adults. During treatments, it took four staffers, clad in protective gear, to hold the animal down for medication.

“She gave me a ride around the room at times,” said Harner, who was in charge of using her knees to control the seal’s flippers.

When a veterinarian visited the rehabilitation center, it was clear that the pellet wound, just above the seal’s bugged-out and bloodshot left eye, would require surgery.

Nearly a week after she was shot, the seal was taken in an animal ambulance to the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood, which treats hundreds of species of injured wild animals.

As snow fell on Seattle on Feb. 4, veterinarians, surgeons and other helpers crowded into a small room that looks like a shabby doctor’s office for surgery. Earlier, an X-ray showed tiny metal fragments of the pellet lodged inside her head, and also a surprise — the seal was pregnant. The scan had revealed the curvature of a tiny spine, rib cage and skull growing inside.

While the seal remained under anesthetic, two surgeons began their work, as the others monitored the animal’s blood pressure, breathing and heartbeat.

The surgeons carved out the damaged tissue, severed the seal’s optic nerve and removed her eye. Then, they scored the seal’s eyelids and sutured them to one another so the skin would heal together.

“It’s a bloody surgery,” said wildlife veterinarian Nicki Rosenhagen, but the seal fared well.

PAWS staffers placed the seal’s eyeball, and some extra tissue, in a plastic gelato container. “We do a lot of educational talks,” Rosenhagen explained.

The pregnant seal has had a smooth recovery, Rosenhagen said. The seal arrived to PAWS plump, strong and healthy, aside from the gunshot wound. The surgical site has been healing well and there’s no evidence of infection. She’s been swimming. And her behavior has been “appropriately aggressive” — normal for a seal and a good indication that no brain damage occurred.

‘Super lucky’ and headed home

On Sunday morning, as long as a blood test comes back clean, PAWS naturalist Jeff Brown will help load the pregnant seal into a giant dog kennel, secure her in the bed of a pickup truck and haul her home.

He’s scouted two locations for a beach release, one in the Sucia Islands and another on San Juan Island with easier access, in case a storm stirs.

By the afternoon, a crew will unload the kennel and release the seal back to her home.

The veterinarians expect the seal to adapt to hunting with one eye and give her good prospects to survive. The baby should also be fine, Rosenhagen said. A radiologist who examined the X-ray said she saw no evidence of fetal death, despite the mother’s ordeal.

“She got super lucky,” Rosenhagen said, “if getting shot in the head is lucky.”

Seal of Approval

How an animal welfare charity ended up endorsing seal killing – and what this says about our age

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th Septmber 2018


As the drive for growth and profit intrudes into all relationships, it captures even the bodies that exist to hold capital to account. Agencies of the state, newspapers and broadcasters, campaign groups and charities that claim to restrain corporate power fall under its spell. As their mission becomes confused and their purpose dissipates, substance is replaced with spectacle.

Fifty years ago, in his book The Society of the Spectacle, the French philosopher Guy Debord argued that “the spectacle” (the domination of social relationships by images) is used to justify the “dictatorship of modern economic production”. It both disguises and supplants the realities of capitalism, changing our perceptions until we become “consumers of illusion”. Here is an example of how it happens.

On Tuesday last week, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) issued a press release about the “incredible story” of Marina, a seal it rescued, that had become trapped under a rock on a beach in South Wales. “Moving a three-tonne boulder presents numerous challenges, but we were able to work with partners to free this seal, before giving her the six months of rehabilitation she so urgently needed.” Marina’s rescue is “testimony to the RSPCA’s tireless commitment to wild animals, and their welfare.”

On the same day, the RSPCA’s head of campaigns, pushed into a corner during an online argument, wrote this: “Seal shooting is not culling it’s about humane pest control.” He was defending the slaughter of seals by Scottish salmon farms.

The contradiction is at first sight incomprehensible. But alongside its spectacular rescues of animals like Marina, the organisation has another role, which is to assess livestock farms, and award those that meet its standards its RSPCA Assured label. This seal of approval ensures that“you can feel good about your choice when shopping and eating out”. Of the 280 million animals whose production and slaughter it approves every year, salmon account for 200 million. The RSPCA accredits 63% of Scottish salmon farms.

It won’t publish a list of the farms it has approved, citing a “contractual clause in the membership agreement”. But of the 24 people who sit on the advisory group for its assurance scheme (according to the most recent published list), 20 work for salmon farming companies. These companies include the four named in an investigation into seal shooting in 2013, by the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, as “the worst offenders”.

There is no closed season for shooting seals. When lactating mothers are shot, their orphaned pups starve to death on remote beaches. The RSPCA does not deny that farms it certifies shoot seals. It tells me it is urgently trying to bring the practice to an end. I might have found this more convincing if it hadn’t said the same thing in 2008. It also maintains that shooting seals is “a last resort”. But the majority of Scottish salmon farms fail to double-net their cages to exclude seals. This is more expensive than bullets, but you might have hoped it would be the minimum requirement for an RSPCA Assured farm.

The RSPCA tells me that “double netting is not suitable for all sites”, but is unable to tell me what proportion of the farms it certifies could use double netting. Where this method cannot be used, you might have hoped the society would say “that seals it: we will not certify salmon farming here.”

It insists that farms that want its accreditation that are at high risk of predation by seals must have “acoustic deterrent devices in place where appropriate”. These make a loud noise intended to scare seals away. Unfortunately, they also cause pain and distress to dolphins, porpoises and whales, disrupting their behaviour and driving them out of their feeding grounds. These are by no means the only problems caused by salmon farms.

Recent footage filmed inside a Scottish salmon cage shows fish being eaten alive. Much of their skin, flesh and fins has been consumed by sea lice, which have reached epidemic proportions on many farms. Sea lice are not only ripping through the caged population, where the mortality of salmon has risen from 7 to 14% in four years, but spill out to hammer the wild salmon and sea trout trying to migrate through the lochs, pushing their populations closer to extinction. Yet the RSPCA standards for sea louse numbers in the farms it certifies are no higher than the legal minimum, which fisheries scientists say is far too low.

In the hope of controlling this infestation, salmon farms dose their fish with organophosphate pesticides. These are likely to devastate crustacean populations in the sea lochs, and many other species that depend on them. Some of the companies providing the fish meal on which farmed salmon are fed trawl and grind up entire marine ecosystems, arguably causing greater environmental damage than any other fishing operation.

The harder you look at this industry, the more obvious it becomes that it is inherently incompatible with either animal welfare or environmental protection. Yet the Scottish government, which sees salmon farming as a crucial growth industry, wants it to double by 2030. It seems to me that the RSPCA’s assurance provides the necessary figleaf.

The RSPCA insists that it is not motivated by the fees it receives for certifying salmon farms. These, it says, “are ploughed back into the scheme’s running costs.” I’m sure this is true. The problem, I feel, runs much deeper: to my eyes, its mission seems to have slipped from preventing cruelty to modifying industrial animal farming. If its objective is to prevent cruelty, surely it should instead endorse the rapid shift towards veganism?

Marina is the spectacle: the actor in the spotlight, who helps to seal the RSPCA’s public image. The unapproved seals of Scotland and their orphaned pups, in the darkness behind the stage, are reduced to the status of pests. Debord defined the spectacle as “a negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself.” He was right.


Trudeau gets more correspondence on seal hunt than any other issue

Ever since Justin Trudeau took office in 2015, he has received more than 2 million messages about seal hunting.

Rachel AielloOttawa News Bureau Online Producer


Published Tuesday, September 18, 2018 7:52PM EDT 
Last Updated Wednesday, September 19, 2018 6:01PM EDT

OTTAWA – File this under: Useful federal trivia.

The number one issue raised by the general public in correspondence with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? Seal hunting.

More than 2 million messages about seal hunting have been sent to the PMO since Trudeau took office on Nov. 4, 2015, according to documents tabled in the House of Commons.

Though it in no way has been a major issue dogging this government, a quick search shows several groups and high-profile celebrities have been pushing Trudeau to end the commercial hunting of seals.

Inuit hunters and non-Indigenous hunters in Newfoundland and Labrador have defended the practice, and Trudeau and his caucus voted in favour of, and passed, Bill S-208 to mark May 20 as “National Seal Products Day” last year.

The documents do not specify how much of the correspondence on this subject was either for, or against seal hunting.

The response to a June Order Paper Question from Conservative MP Kevin Waugh listed the top 10 topics in terms of volume, not all of which came in a mail bag — it includes electronic form emails that campaigns can encourage people to stick their names on and send in.

Overall, environmental and energy issues appeared repeatedly on the list, including climate change, which was the second-most communicated issue, and pipelines, which was the fifth hottest topic.

Other matters that amassed the most mail? Terrorism and legal settlements, which could potentially be connected to Trudeau’s controversial $10.5 million settlement to Omar Khadr in the summer of 2017.

The top 10 issues amassed a total of more than three million pieces of correspondence.

Here’s the full rundown of what Canadians are writing to the Prime Minister about:

  1. Seal hunt: 2,013,389 pieces of correspondence
  2. Climate change: 240,376 pieces of correspondence
  3. Test on animals: 227,229 pieces of correspondence
  4. Site C dam: 148,005 pieces of correspondence
  5. Pipelines: 140,859 pieces of correspondence
  6. Falun Gong: 138,273 pieces of correspondence
  7. Natural gas: 127,294 pieces of correspondence
  8. Legal settlements: 126,606 pieces of correspondence
  9. Terrorism: 86,451 pieces of correspondence
  10. Renewable energy: 65,984 pieces of correspondence

Total for the top 10 was 3,314,466 pieces of correspondence.

If there’s a burning issue you want to raise with Trudeau, his office hosts an online submission form, or if the classic postal mail is more your style, you can address him at: Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2.

New group calls for seal and sea lion cull on B.C.’s coast

Some B.C. First Nations and fishermen want the government to establish a new seal hunt on the west coast. As Jill Bennett reports, their reasons for the new hunt are being met with skepticism by opponents.

– A A +

Members of the Tsawwassen First Nation are teaming up with commercial and sport-fishers on B.C.’s coast to call on the new federal fisheries minister to allow a West Coast seal and sea lion harvest. The group, called the Pacific Balance Pinnipeds Society, says that growing populations of seals and sea lions endangers future salmon populations.

“If we want to see salmon around for our next generations, we have to go out there and bring that balance to the animal kingdom,” said Thomas Sewid, the director of the newly established society. “To go out, harvest those seals, utilize the whole carcass so the meats are going to markets in Europe and China, the fat is being rendered down for the omega 3s.”

WATCH HERE: Pod of hungry orcas hunt for sea lion between boats

The federal government has banned the cull of seals and sea lions on the West Coast since the 1970s, which still exists on the East Coast. The group is hoping to have a change in policy now that Jonathan Wilkinson, the MP for North Vancouver, is the new fisheries minister.

“I think we are going to see the balance to our oceans and our waters come back in place because of that minister,” said Sewid. “He understands. He has been out sport-fishing. He has seen big fat sea lions tear salmon off his hooks.”

READ MORE: Sea lion pulls young girl into water off Steveston Wharf in Richmond, B.C.

Sea lions are known to be aggressive, not just to animal populations, but towards humans as well. Last May, a sea lion that swam near Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf snagged a little girl by her dress and pulled her into the water. There were multiple Steveston Harbour Authority signs posted at the popular tourist destination warning people not to feed the sea mammals that frequent the area.

But there is some disagreement on how large an effect seals and sea lions actually have on the fish populations.

Scientists at Ocean Wise say their research does not support the idea a harbour seal cull improves the abundance of Chinook salmon in B.C. The scientist describes the fish population as “complex” and that the seal population has recovered from historical culls, and is no longer increasing significantly.

READ MORE: Hunters call for more licences, possible seal cull to combat growing population off N.L.

“Studies show only four per cent of the harbour seal diet is salmon. Herring and hake are their primary prey, with hake making up about 40 per cent of their diet,” said a statement from Ocean Wise. “Hake is actually a big salmon smolt predator, so a seal cull could actually have the opposite of its intended effect: by reducing the number of seals, the abundance of hake would likely increase, resulting in decreased salmon numbers overall.”

We also have a healthy and growing population of transient, or Biggs, killer whales, which eat marine mammals like seals and sea lions. So harbour seals are already being culled very effectively without any human interference at all. Reducing the seal population in the Salish Sea would mean a reduction in food for transient killer whales.

READ MORE: WATCH: Sea lion feeding frenzy on commercial herring catch

Ocean Wise has also found that with an increase in transient killer whales, which eat seals, the population is expected to slowly decline over time.

But Sewid’s group has provided numbers from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans that show a massive population boom that needs to be controlled. According to those numbers, harbour seals in the Georgia Straight have gone up from 12,500 in 1987 to 45,000 today.

As for sea lions, those same numbers from the population grew on B.C.’s coast from 13,000 in 1984 to 36,140 in 1997.

The populations have slowed since the mid-1990s, and has been relatively stable since. One of the challenges Sewid says in convincing people that the animals should be culled is that they look “cute.”

“They don’t understand that seals and sea lions are eating hundreds of salmon fry when the fry are going out to sea, down the rivers and when the salmon are coming home to spawn, those overpopulations over seals and sea lions are eating all that fish,” said Sewid. “We have to bring that balance on.”

[Sure, like it’s their job. Nature has been the expert on checks and balances since long before humans.]

Ellen DeGeneres is ‘hurting northern livelihoods’: Angry Inuk

An Inuk artist and filmmaker is calling out a Hollywood celebrity for spreading ignorance about the seal hunt.

“Unfortunately the Ellen Show is still making statements that affect Inuit livelihoods and food security,” said Alethea Arnaquq-Baril on Twitter.

“I am an Inuit seal meat eater, and my fur is ethical, humane.”

Arnaquq-Baril produced the documentary “Angry Inuk” in 2016 to show the damage inflicted by anti-sealing groups supported by people like DeGeneres.

The groups protest the seal hunt every spring. In fact, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) held such a protest in Toronto Wednesday.

Earlier this week, DeGeneres celebrated on Instagram that India was banning sealskin. says the online opposition spoils a special time of year for Nunavummiut who look forward to warmer weather, longer daylight and the opportunity to hunt whales and seal.

“You see another big anti-seal hunt campaign and another massive celebrity supporting their campaigns and it’s like a punch to the gut,” she said in an interview.

“At this time of joy in our lives it’s always tainted every year by anti-seal hunt protests. Every year.”

APTN News messaged DeGeneres and The Ellen DeGeneres Show for comment for this story and did not receive a response before deadline.


@TheEllenShow it is violence against indigenous peoples to call for ending seal hunts, especially if you have no first hand knowledge if the lived experience

Seal is a staple in the Inuit diet and way of life.

Arnaquq-Baril, who’s posted a photo of herself wearing sealskin clothing on Twitter, says it’s one of the few resources left that Inuit can hunt, eat and use to make money by selling the skin or using in art or jewelry.

They might get $50 a skin now when they used to get up to $200, she added.

While that shrinking value may cheer DeGeneres and PETA, Arnaquq-Baril says celebrities should get all the facts before they champion a cause.

Denise Balkissoon


What’s the origin of everyone talking about this today?

Alethea ArnaquqBaril@Alethea_Aggiuq

India banned sealskin and @TheEllenShow tweeted in celebration. She knows damn well Inuit are the most affected by anti-sealing campaigns and seal product bans.

She says many vegans and vegetarians have apologized for their stand against seal hunting after watching her documentary she has screened around the world.

“When they see the film I’ve never had someone come up to me and say a horrible thing afterward,” she said.

“They understand that we live in a very different part of the world and it’s important for us to continue eating seal meat, wearing sealskin and selling it.”

Beatrice Hunter@beatlhunter

So I’ve stopped watching @TheEllenShow since she’s tryna stop the seal hunt.

Hunger and poverty is also part of life in Nunavut, where many families struggle to buy high-priced groceries shipped up from the south. And there are few good jobs.

APTN has documented these social conditions in several stories, including Wasting Away and Article 23.

As well, Arnaquq-Baril says there’s an element of racism in the anti-sealing campaign – whether animal rights groups and their supporters recognize it or not.

“To think that their food is normal and ours is weird and shouldn’t be eaten – that’s racist,” she said.

“Billions of hamburgers are eaten every single day when they choose to target Indigenous people.”

DeGeneres first spoke out against the seal hunt about 10 years ago. Some Inuit fought back online by posting photos of themselves with seals known as ‘sealfies’.

Since then, Arnaquq-Baril says DeGeneres must know her anti-seal words and actions are hurting real people. And because of that Arnaquq-Baril has decided she is no longer a fan.

“That’s willful harm onto Inuit communities,” she said.

  1. Hi I agree with Ellen actually my dream is that no more animal killing I’m a Animal lover period I DO NOT EAT MEAT animals they hve every right to be in this world without fearing for ttheir lives!
    Animals are very intelligent !
    I sent money every month to the wildlife. Animals hve no voice but I am their voices and blv me I will still fight for saving theses beautiful creatures!!!

    God bless to Ellen
    I’m on your side

Sick seals pups cause tension between DOC and animal welfare group

Two seemingly sickly seal pups on South Island beaches have caused a stir on social media this week.

A baby fur seal on a Nelson beach and another in Invercargill were left for long periods of time despite looking lethargic and, some worried, so sick they could be dying.

DOC received a call on its hotline shortly before 3pm on Saturday about a seal pup on Tahunanui Beach, Nelson, a department spokeswoman confirmed.

The caller was concerned the seal was being disturbed by people around it and a DOC ranger responded and moved the pup from the beach because of the attention it was getting from people.

The seal was taken to a Waimea Estuary coastal spot near Rabbit Island.

In Invercargill, a member of the public had been told yesterday they could move another pup away from the tide line if they were worried about it being washed out to sea, and had been instructed how to do so by a DOC ranger.

DOC was today heading out to the beach to check on the pup.

One man shot a Facebook live video venting his frustration after he felt the Department of Conservation (DOC) didn’t act fast enough after he called concerned on Saturday.

But the government department says it’s not rangers’ job to look out for the welfare of individual members of thriving species.

Animal welfare group Helping You Help Animals (Huha), said all animals had the right to life, and death, with dignity and DOC should have responded more quickly to calls from the public, euthanising the animals if necessary.

“When an animal is found suffering and in pain and there’s a department in a position to mitigate any suffering we can’t understand why they wouldn’t even look into concerns from the public,” said Huha founder Carolyn Press-McKenzie.

“If the public is concerned enough to call, it’s at least DOC’s duty of care to look into it and see if assistance or care is needed.”

DOC staffer Laura Boren, who has studied fur seals at PhD level, said while it could be upsetting to see a wild animal which looked unwell, it was not always appropriate for DOC to step in.

The department took a hands-off approach to fur seals, whose population was currently thriving, Boren said.

Often animals were not sick, merely a bit skinny and tired, and would return to the water on their own.

“With that increase we’re going to see natural causes of mortality which is going to include seals that aren’t able to forage for themselves, or their mothers have died or can’t feed them effectively,” she said.

“We don’t want to make an assumption it’s not going to survive, because we could get it wrong.”

Where animal populations were self-sustaining, like fur seals are, DOC staff did not have the same responsibilities to individual animal welfare as someone like a vet, she said.

“DOC’s responsibility is more for where populations are in danger for human-related issues.

“We’ll step in when it’s something like an entanglement or the seal’s got a hook in it’s mouth.

“When a population is doing well that’s when we need to step back and let them sort themselves out.”

Boren acknowledged members of the public could find seeing a seal they thought was sick distressing, but said baby animals dying was part of nature which we were sometimes sheltered from.

However she said if the public did make a call to DOC, photos and video were helpful so staff could assess the animal’s well-being and “triage” the case before deciding whether to head out or not.

Animal rights activists and Inuit clash over Canada’s Indigenous food traditions

newly opened restaurant in Toronto sparked heated online debaterecently by revealing that two dishes on its menu would contain seal meat. Kū-kŭm Kitchen, an Indigenous-owned and operated restaurant, was targeted by an online petition which gained more than 6,300 signatures. The petition called for the restaurant to remove seal from its menu, stating that seal hunting is “violent, horrific, traumatizing and unnecessary”.

The controversy again highlighted the often uncomfortable relationship between animal rights and environmental groups and Indigenous communities who are struggling with profound issues of poverty and deprivation.

The work of such activist organisations is crucial in educating the general public through events such as today’s World Vegan Day, and in encouraging government policies that promote a more sustainable future for the planet. But with change comes responsibility, something that Greenpeace recognised in 2014 when it openly apologised to the Inuit people of North America and Greenland for its role in causing them 40 years of grief, hardship and frustration.

This period has been dubbed “The Great Depression” by the Inuit, referring to the seal hunting ban in Europe and, more significantly, the associated drop in public approval of seal products.

While Greenpeace has now halted its anti-sealing campaigns, organisations including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are still running campaigns that Inuit communities say threaten their very existence.

In Toronto, the protest against Kū-kŭm Kitchen’s seal-based dishes prompted a counter-petition by local artist Aylan Couchie, who claims the original petition was ill-informed and that seal products hold historical and cultural significance for Indigenous communities. Couchie contends that targeting a small Indigenous business when hundreds of other restaurants in Toronto use meat from inhumane sources is anti-Indigenous.

The crux of this latest controversy, however, is the meat’s source: SeaDNA, which provides the restaurant with its seal meat, is a company that takes part in the commercial seal hunt every year in Canada.

A vessel loaded with seal pelts during the 2009 commercial seal hunt in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada.
A vessel loaded with seal pelts during the 2009 commercial seal hunt in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada. Photograph: Stewart Cook/Ifaw/EPA

According to Joseph Shawana, head chef and owner of Kū-Kŭm Kitchen: “We did our due diligence when sourcing our meat. All hunters [at SeaDNA] go through rigorous training to ensure they hunt the seals as humanely as possible. And they only harvest what they need – that is something intrinsic in our Indigenous culture. Only take what you need, not what you want.”

Shawana says he is happy to discuss the issue with the protesters, telling them: “Come visit me at the restaurant: I’d love to answer any questions.” In his view, the controversy stems from misinformation. “The Inuit have never harvested white seal pups – that is very frowned upon. Also, Canada has a huge, federally regulated seal industry. The seal hunt is not what it was like before, when the seal population was less than a million – now it’s over seven million.

The commercial seal hunt has been a contentious subject between animal rights activists and Indigenous groups for decades. In the 1970s, Ifaw began to mobilise public opinion against the annual hunt of baby harp seals (known as “whitecoats”) off Canada’s east coast. The organisations used photographs of helpless baby seals being clubbed to death by fishermen to create protest campaigns.

After immense public support, in 1983 the European Economic Community (ECC) banned the importing of seal skin and furs for two years. Public opinion against the seal hunt was so strong that demand for seal pelts and furs dropped dramatically all over the world.

As animal rights organisations celebrated the collapse of Canada’s east-coast whitecoat sealing industry, the Inuit in northern Canada – who do not hunt seal pups, only adult harp seals – suffered from the collapse of the market for seal pelts. Despite a written exemption for Indigenous Inuit hunters, markets across the Arctic (both large-scale commercial and sustainable-use) crashed.

In 1983-85, when the ban went into effect, the average income of an Inuit seal hunter in Resolute Bay fell from Can$54,000 to $1,000. The government of the Northwest Territories estimated that nearly 18 out of 20 Inuit villages lost almost 60% of their communities’ income.

And life in these areas has not got any better since. The region is plagued with the highest unemployment rate in Canada, and the highest suicide rates in the world. A second seal ban, enforced by the European Union in 2010, only exacerbated these issues.

A harp seal pup or ‘whitecoat’ on an ice floe.
A harp seal pup or ‘whitecoat’ on an ice floe. Photograph: Stewart Cook/Ifaw/EPA

Irena Knezevic, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa specialising in communication around food and health, believes that historically, campaigns by organisations such as Peta and Ifaw have gravely impacted Inuit communities:

“I want to be really cautious by first saying this is not true of all vegan and environmental organisations,” she says. “But I do think organisations like Peta, Ifaw and Sea Shepherd have greatly profited from the shocking and spectacular images of seals being clubbed to death.”

According to Knezevic: “It is disingenuous to say the commercial hunt does not affect or impact the Indigenous hunt. It does, and if you look at it, less than 100,000 seals are killed in Canada each year – while at the same time, two million minks are farmed and killed in Canada every year: 20 times as many, but we don’t see much promotional material with minks by these organisations.”

Ashley Byrne, campaign specialist at Peta, says the organisation’s stance has always been against the commercial seal hunt, not that of the Inuit:

“We have always been very clear about the fact that our campaign is focused entirely on ending the commercial field slaughter only. [This] accounts for about 97% of seals killed in Canada, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Inuit subsistence hunt. The Canadian government has to hide behind the Inuit people in a dishonest attempt to justify the commercial slaughter, but there’s two different things and our campaign is against the commercial hunt,” says Byrne.


When asked what Peta’s response is to the Inuit community impacted by the campaigns, Byrne suggests public support for cruel products will fall and that alternatives should be explored by the Inuit and the Canadian government.

“We have seen a lot of products fall out of favour as a result [of our campaigns], and you know that is progress. It wouldn’t be right to drag this ethical progression back. With many of these other products that fall out favour, we’ve always advocated for job retraining, for people to be able to use their skills in industries that aren’t dying; [industries] that aren’t being propped up by tax dollar [subsidies].”

According to the Inuit, however, moving into another industry is not only impossible, but offensive: for them, seal hunting holds great cultural significance.

Inuit vs activists: a decades-old conflict

Angry Inuk, a documentary made by filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, depicts the decades-old conflict between animal rights and environmental groups and the Inuit. Aaju Peter, an Inuit lawyer from Nunavut, is one of the activists featured in the documentary; she witnessed first-hand the devastation the seal bans caused her people.

“We are trying to feed our communities. When our hunters catch seal they share it – it is the most nutritious food our children and communities can eat. But because the hunter can no longer afford fuel and ammunition due to the collapse of the seal market, it’s really making it hard,” Peter says. “We are the most food insecure region in any developed country. Something needs to change.”

An Inuit fisherman and his family have a seal meat barbeque.
An Inuit fisherman and his family have a seal meat barbeque. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

A report by the Conference Board of Canada found that Nunavut, a territory in northern Canada, was the country’s most food insecure region, with more than half of the Inuit population reporting moderate-to-severe food insecurity. According to the nonprofit organisation Feeding Nunavut, seven in every 10 preschoolers in the area live in food-insecure households, often going to sleep hungry and missing out on essential nutrition.

Although the Canadian government has tried to strengthen the sealing industry by giving tax subsidies to fishermen and enforcing strict quotas on the number of seals allowed to be harvested in a season, vegan and animal rights organisations are not backing down on their fight against the seal hunt.

Tanya Tagaq is an Inuit throat singer from northern Canada. In 2014, she received death threats from animal rights activists after she posted a picture of her infant daughter next to a dead seal for the Sealfie campaign. The same year, after she received the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, she shouted “Fuck Peta” during her acceptance speech in a show of support for the seal hunt. Peta responded with a statement saying she was ill-informed and should “read more”.

“I was born and raised [in Nunavut] and I know how the system works, how people harvest meat and how they process it,” Tagaq says. “The world is burning up for a reason, because people have totally forgotten how to respect the earth, the land, ourselves and each other. The idea some people can’t comprehend is that we [Inuit] might have the key to how to respect animals and how to respect the land. We’re all on the same side here.”

Tagaq says she feels compassion for animal rights activists, because most of them are not aware about the truth behind the seal hunt and other Indigenous practices. “They need to know we have the right to live off of our natural resources, without someone telling us what we are allowed to sell. Seals are our cows, they are our beef and leather, yet cattle markets haven’t crashed due to public opinion and animal rights opposition.”

She adds: “We have the right to hunt. We have the right to use renewable resources to feed our families. We have the right to survive.”

As for Kū-Kŭm Kitchen, its owner Shawana has no plans to change his restaurant’s menu: “I am paying homage to our northern brothers and sisters,” he says. “I will continue to sell seal meat.”

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Animal rights activists target Indigenous restaurant for serving seal meat
“A new petition by animal rights activists is targeting Toronto
restaurant Kukum Kitchen for serving seal meat on its menu raising ire
from Indigenous people who say their traditional foods are being
unfairly targeted.
““The restaurant claims they are the only restaurant in Toronto that
sells seal meat and we do not want this to become a new trend,” says
the petition from Care 2 organization.
““These are intelligent beings that do not want to die,” it continues.
“Please sign and demand that Kukum Kitchen take seal meat off their