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.
Arnaquq-Baril 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
— NitraQueen (@NitraQueen) April 7, 2018
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.
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.
— Alethea Arnaquq-Baril❄️ (@Alethea_Aggiuq) April 6, 2018
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.”
So I've stopped watching @TheEllenShow since she's tryna stop the seal hunt.
— Beatrice Hunter (@beatlhunter) April 10, 2018
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.
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.