Wednesday, May 27, 2009

When in Rome...

Apparently the Governor General of Canada has caused a bit of a stir during a visit to Nunavut in the north of Canada. What did she do? Well, she gutted a seal and ate a piece of its heart.
First she gutted it. Then she had the bleeding heart pulled out of its furry, flabby carcass. Finally, she swallowed a slice of the mammal's oozing organ.
And when it was all over Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean wiped the blood of a freshly slaughtered seal off her crimson-spattered fingertips.
The Governor General made a graphic gesture of solidarity with the country's beleaguered seal hunters on the first day of a week-long Arctic visit Monday.
Hundreds of Inuit at a community festival gathered around as Jean knelt above a pair of carcasses and used a traditional ulu blade to slice the meat off the skin.
After repeated, vigorous slashes through the flesh the Queen's representative turned to the woman beside her and asked enthusiastically: "Could I try the heart?"
Within seconds Jean was holding a dripping chunk of seal-ticker, which she tucked into her mouth, swallowed whole, and turned to her daughter to say it tasted good.
Jean grabbed a tissue to wipe her blood-soaked fingers, and explained her gesture. She expressed dismay that anyone would characterize the Inuit's eons-old, traditional hunting practices as inhumane.
Jean gestured to the hundreds of people in a packed arena and noted that they would all be fed by the meat laid out on a tarp on the floor.
[Emphasis mine.]
Now, I won't even attempt to say that I would have done the same thing in a similar situation, because I honestly don't know if I could have. But I also won't deny that Ms. Jean earned my admiration when I read that story. Since coming to Japan I've managed to keep (I think!) a pretty calm exterior when offered raw fish, raw chicken, raw deer and, most recently, raw pig vagina. (Sashimi has become a regular part of my diet. Honestly, though, I prefer my meat cooked.) Ms. Jean, however, makes me look like a provincial hick by comparison!

The Governor General of Canada, in my opinion, has honored (sorry, honoured!) her position by showing herself to be the perfect guest. This is only made more poignant by the fact that her hosts were fellow countrymen (and I encourage readers to look at the above-linked story in its entirety to get a fuller picture).

Of course, while I was reading that story I knew it would only be a short time before the Europeans or PETA or some combination thereof began howling. And sure enough:
Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean snacking on a slain seal's raw heart has sparked criticism from the European Union and animal rights groups.
Barbara Slee, an anti-seal hunt campaigner at the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Brussels, said she was disgusted by Jean's actions.
"The fact that the Governor General in public is slashing and eating a seal, I don't think that really helps the cause, and I'm convinced that this will not change the mind of European citizens and politicians," Slee told The Associated Press.
Christ, what a silly, self-important idiot this woman sounds like. She's "disgusted"? Let's be clear about this: she's disgusted by Inuit eating habits and culture and the fact that they, with the support of their government, don't feel like listening to a bunch of asshole Europeans tell them how to live. The Inuit might well feel somewhat disgusted at Europeans' annoying habit of killing each other by the millions every few generations, but they're probably much to polite to say anything about it out loud. We might forgive them if they snicker when nobody's watching...
"It amazes us that a Canadian official would indulge in such bloodlust," Dan Mathews, senior vice-president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told the Toronto Star.
"It sounds like she's trying to give Canadians an even more Neanderthal image around the world than they already have."
The CBC stops at nothing to bring its readers/viewers entertaining quotes! A guy from PETA calling Canadians "neanderthals"? Hee hee! When I was a kid and my sisters hit me, I used to say, "what are you trying to do, tickle me?" What a lightweight. Is he trying to make PETA look more ridiculous than it it already does?

What this amounts to is a sort of cultural snobbery. The Europeans can enjoy their veal (or whatever) so long as they don't personally have to kill the calf (PETA members at least can fall back to the more consistent position of "meat is murder"--that doesn't make them any less annoying, though). Anyone who eats meat, however, and tries to say the hunting traditions of the Inuit are "barbaric" or "savage" is a hypocrite.


  1. I was quite happy to read about her doing that too. I get a little sick of people who pick and choose what's right to eat based on how cute the animal is.

  2. Not that anyone's asking, but if it were up to me, I'd restrict seal hunting to the groups traditionally dependent on the hunt...and stick the people whacking them on the head for fur coats in jail.

  3. Rob,
    I have no real beef (so to speak) with vegetarians/vegans/etc. I might disagree with some of their reasons for avoiding meat, but they're entitled to eat (or not eat) what they choose. There is no good reason to condemn the Inuit for hunting seals, eating them, and using their pelts. As much as I like a good steak, the way beef (or chicken or pork) is obtained strikes me as being on morally shakier ground than the traditional practices of aboriginal peoples around the world. The fact that most of us don't know where our food comes from has and will lead to problems.

    I'm inclined to agree that, given what can be done with modern synthetic materials, etc., killing an animal for its pelt alone seems pretty unnecessary. I'd buy a leather jacket, but I wouldn't buy a fur coat--not for myself or anyone else. These issues are, I think, more complicated than various groups tend to portray them, so I try to treat them on a case by case basis.