Eat your heart out, PETA
Thursday, May 28, 200911 Comments
A lamb's heart and trachea (iStock Photo)
Jean waded into a politically charged debate during her trip to the arctic this week when, as a guest at a community centre in Rankin Inlet, she enjoyed the spoils of an Inuit seal hunt. After helping skin the seal carcass with a traditional ulu blade, she asked for a piece of the heart and swallowed it whole, remarking afterward that seal hunting was part of the traditional way of life for Inuit. (Jean was apparently informed that the heart was a choice cut reserved for elders; why she thought it was alright to ask for it is beyond me).
It was a less-than-subtle poke at European Parliament, who voted to ban seal products last month in response to protestations about the industrialized, annual cull of hundreds of thousands of seals in Canada. The EU legislation makes an exception for small community hunts by Inuit, but that hasn’t quelled concerns economic growth in the north would suffer, hence Jean's heartfelt reaction (pun intended).
The GG’s actions were too much for animal rights groups who had lobbied the EU for the ban. They piled on, accusing the Jean of blurring the line between subsistence hunting and a commercial seal hunt.
Or, at least they tried to. Some of the seal hunt’s opponents targeted Jean’s actions rather than the symbolism of those actions. The resulting uproar carried more than a hint of racism.
"It sounds like she's trying to give Canadians an even more Neanderthal image around the world than they already have," reamarked Dan Mathews, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Eating a seal heart reminds PETA of a lesser evolved species of man? Really? It reminds me of Inuit cultural practices, which evolved over thousands of years and discourage wastefulness. It’s either that, or buy the insanely expensive tofu they ship in from the south.
Not content to stop there, Matthews decided that having Jean follow in the footsteps of her hosts was akin to "taking part in the beating of women in the Middle East because it is part of local practice."
He went on to say that although PETA disagreed with seal hunting by the Inuit their real target was the commercial hunt, which accounts for more than 90 per cent of Canada’s commercial yield of seal products.
That mind-boggling statement - almost as mind-boggling as PETA’s boycott of Canadian maple syrup, “a product that is vital to the country's economy,” in response to the seal hunt - exposes a big problem with animal rights activism. If, as PETA claims on its website, “animals are not ours to eat” and “animals are not ours to wear,” the Inuit should also be subject to criticism for their animal eating, animal wearing ways.
Given Canada’s shameful history of trying to impose European values on aboriginals, such a move would rightfully cause a public backlash. This leaves PETA in a position of looking down on aboriginal practices as the moral equivalent of beating women but not having the heart to do anything about it (pun intended).
A spokesperson for the U.S-based Human Society conveyed the same sentiment, saying there was “public understanding” of Inuit practices at the same time she was denouncing the move as “repugnant” and “offensive.” An EU spokesperson said the whole affaire was “too bizarre to acknowledge,” without bothering to clarify what she found bizarre; eating seal heart or making a public statement with it.
In the larger picture, the animal rights movement is going to run into trouble if thinks such posturing is going to influence people who eat meat as part of their traditional values. Many people in Western countries have grown detached from the food they eat, so campaigns that anthropomorphize cute seals or poor, defenseless lobsters are largely successful. In places where it's common, by necessity or culture, to interact with your next meal, it must seem a pretty silly notion that the only way treat an animal humanely is to not consume it.
One might presume Jean doesn’t eat hearts on a regular basis, but some of the Inuit who were with her that day do. If animal rights groups universally oppose the eating of animals they should come out and say it. That way, the bleeding hearts of the world would realize their actions have consequences beyond KFC and MacDonald's.
Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon.ca and is fine with meat eaters, even though he’s a vegetarian.
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