Anti-sealing PETA responds to Nunavut’s Tanya Tagaq

“Tanya should stop posing her baby with a dead seal and read more”


Tanya Tagaq receives her Polaris prize Sept. 22 in Toronto. (PHOTO COURTESY OF POLARIS)

Tanya Tagaq receives her Polaris prize Sept. 22 in Toronto. (PHOTO COURTESY OF POLARIS)

PETA — the animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — struck back against Polaris 2014 winner Tanya Tagaq Sept. 23 for what the throat singer and performer said about them Sept. 22 during her acceptance speech for the music prize.

Tagaq won $30,000 at a gala in Toronto for the jury-selected award and encouraged people to “wear and eat seal as much as possible.”

Tagaq followed that up with a finale: “Fuck PETA!”

PETA, which has lobbied for years against the commercial market for seal products, issued a news release on their website Sept. 23 which said Tagaq was “ill-informed” because “we’ve never campaigned against the indigenous hunt.”

Instead, PETA has lobbied against the “commercial slaughter” on Canada’s east coast, the news release said.

“The international bans that PETA has successfully lobbied for, such as in Europe, exempt indigenous hunts,” the release read.

“Tanya should stop posing her baby with a dead seal and read more,” the release finished, referring to a controversy sparked earlier this year when Tagaq joined the #sealfie movement on Twitter by posing her daughter beside a freshly hunted seal.

Many Nunavut groups and residents have accused PETA, an organization that regularly uses shock tactics to draw media attention, of insensitivity and ignorance.

In 2010, PETA received criticism for adapting the inuksuk logo of the Vancouver Olympics into its anti-sealing campaign.

The organization’s adaptation showed an inuksuk — a widespread symbol of Inuit culture — in the act of clubbing a baby seal to death in a pool of blood.

“It’s very disturbing to see the inuksuk perverted like that,” said Aaju Peter, a Nunavut lawyer and sealing activist at the time.

And, in 2007, Iqaluit City Council received a letter from PETA asking the city to fly their flags at half-mast out of “mourning” for the “annual Canadian seal slaughter.”

The request, unanimously rejected by council, left Elisapee Sheutiapik,then Iqaluit’s mayor, chuckling.

Matt Rice, PETA’s anti-sealing campaign coordinator at the time, told Nunatsiaq News that although the organization is not opposed to Inuit seal hunting, it does consider the sale of seal pelts “a matter of waste and extreme cruelty.”

Rice also rejected the notion that the European Union’s ban on seal pelts would hurt Inuit economies, because of the exemption for Inuit who hunt seal for subsistence.

The Canadian government has yet to apply for that exemption.

Anne Coninsx, the EU’s ambassador to Canada, visited Iqaluit in February on a goodwill trip, in part to engage federal officials on this very issue but told Nunatsiaq News that she didn’t receive much of a response.

Even if the exemption were activated, some organizations, such as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, say it would be meaningless because the ban has already destroyed market demand for seal skin products.

Meanwhile, PETA continues to defend its stance condemning the maritime commercial harvest of seals, without acknowledging that its depiction of bloodied baby seals vilifies the industry as a whole — including the sustainable Inuit harvest.

Greenpeace promoted a similar campaign against commercial seal hunting throughout the 1970s and 1980s. but has since tried to “set the record straight” by apologizing for the “far-reaching” harm done to indigenous seal harvesters.

For her part, Tagaq thinks the issue is being blown out of proportion.

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