Angry Inuk

An Inuit community in Canada’s northern territories faces an interesting challenge. How can a culture, that prides itself on a patient and understated expression of anger, make themselves heard when their opponents are famous for a more aggressive approach?

Canadian seal hunting has gotten a lot of media attention since the late 1970s thanks to well-funded animal rights groups and their celebrity spokespeople. The brutal clubbing of baby seals in Newfoundland and Labrador may be the most common image associated with seal hunting but, for many Inuit people living in Nunavut, the practice looks very different. Traditional seal hunting, in a culture well-known for a humane and non-wasteful approach to killing animals, can be a matter of survival in some parts of northern Canada. Not only do they eat the meat and wear the fur, the latter of which is a necessity with the region’s frigid temperatures, but they also need money to survive just like the rest of us. One way they can earn money is by selling products made from seal fur.

Although the laws related to seal hunting make exceptions for the Inuit, decreased demand due to such laws, and the propaganda put out by Greenpeace and other organizations, have driven prices down, making it harder for them to survive economically. In Angry Inuk, filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril follows fellow Inuit activists to Ottawa, Toronto, and Europe as they try and tell their side of the story.

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, using fantastic footage of northern Canada, gives us a behind the scenes look at traditional seal hunting and the preparation of furs. More importantly, she takes the time to lay out the historical and political context that can limit the options of First Nations communities. And finally, by focusing on a social media campaign designed to educate people about traditional seal hunting, she gives hope for a more constructive dialogue in the future.

It’s a side of the story that is so often drowned out by extremely vocal activist groups that have the money and resources to make themselves heard. At my day job, I work as a social worker with First Nations and Inuit people and even I have never heard the story of seal hunting told quite like this. Regardless of your position on animal rights, Angry Inuk is a fascinating film, one that offers a perspective that we don’t usually see.

Originally posted at Cinema Axis.

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19 thoughts on “Angry Inuk

    1. Matt Post author

      Me too. I do think it’s significant though that seals aren’t even endangered and that people tend to have no problem with the killing of other less cute animals in ways that are way less humane.

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  1. Christopher

    This sounds fascinating and a perspective I can’t remember seeing elsewhere, although I have heard of Inuits (if I remember correctly) being allowed to hunt whales using traditional methods. And in spite of my knee-jerk “whale hunting is wrong” it seems beyond reasonable to allow people who have lost so much to keep such traditions. Especially since whales are endangered because of first world hunting methods, not First Nations.
    Anyway your review has my head buzzing so much I wonder how much the documentary itself will make me think.

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    1. Matt Post author

      That’s actually a really good point about whale hunting. The documentary sure made me think. Actually it got me thinking of things that I really never gave much thought to before. I can’t say I was all that passionate about seal hunting one way or another before I saw this movie.

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  2. ridicuryder

    Matt,

    First, WOW to your work with Inuit and First Nations people…I suspect you’ve had your eyes opened in ways you never imagined. I’d like to see this film, but I can already tell you my gut feeling: less ice cover for bears to hunt from = seal population upswing (maybe explosion). Let the Natives hunt.

    Mark

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    1. Matt Post author

      It’s been an experience that I will never forget, to be sure. And, yes, seals seem to be plentiful up there. They’re a much cheaper option for food (up North it costs something crazy like $40 for a bag of chips or something).

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    1. Matt Post author

      Hopefully. I have no idea what’s going to happen with Angry Inuk because it doesn’t look like anyone’s bought it yet.

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  3. Liz A.

    Interesting. It’s easy to dismiss seal hunting as something that harkens from a different age, but some are still in the old ways. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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    1. Matt Post author

      For sure. They try and live according to their traditions as I understand it but they still have to live with contemporary realities. They exist in the global economy and do need an income to survive. This film asserts that profits from seal hunting are Northern Inuit’s best chance at doing that. The film suggests that it’s not enough to let them hunt seal but some of the laws and stigma about buying and selling seal meat needs to be lifted.

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  4. Birgit

    There are always 2 sides to every situation and, although, I am not in favour of the western man hunting baby seals, i can see why the Inuit need this because they do not waste…not like the greedy Modern men who hunt them for profit. This just shows how it is not simply black and white. It reminds me of the children who work in India for a pittance so the Western world can wear the latest fashion and people, like Martha Stewart etc… get richer. It sounds like the children should be children and play and go to school but it isn’t that simple. These children, even though it is a rough life and cruelly unfair, are often the bread winners of the family. Unless one can change an entire nation to its core, this will not change and if these kids don’t get the employment they need, their family suffers…..nothing is ever black and white

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    1. Matt Post author

      Good point! In Angry Inuk, EU restrictions on buying seal meat are sold as “good for Inuit people” without asking them what in fact would be “good for” them. trying to fix a problem without any understanding of the surrounding context can just make things worse.

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  5. reocochran

    Matt, I am like others, impressed with your work and caring about the Inuits and First Nations people. I just don’t like the idea of “clubbing” baby seals, which seems inhumane. I eat meat and yet, probably most slaughter houses are inhumane also.
    The Native Americans are more familiar to me, demonstrating, as mentioned, using as much as possible of the animal without waste nor pain. I will look for this movie and hope to share its message to friends, too. Thanks for this information, Matt.

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