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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ublaakut, animal-rights activists

UPDATED: The Humane Society of the US's take.

They're back.

Man, I just love it when people complain that traditional Arctic culture is horrible. It's even better when these people have absolutely no idea what they're talking about.

The battle over polar-bear hunting has been going on for a while, but now the American government wants to get involved. They want to make it illegal to bring trophies from a polar-bear hunt back to the U.S. It's illegal to hunt polar bears in the States, so wealthy American hunters come to northern Canada to hunt the bears.

I can already hear the complaints from John Kerry. Isn't this horrible? Americans shooting polar bears? How offensive! Plus, polar bears are great models for ads! But no, he's NOT opposed to aboriginal subsistence hunting! That's totally different!


John, let me explain something simple that might change your mind. The American sport hunt does not result in the death of any additional polar bears. It's also part of the aboriginal subsistence hunt. Does that make you re-think your position?

I hear you. You don't understand how this is possible. You imagine that the polar-bear hunt is much like the illegal ivory trade in Africa. You suspect that headless bear carcasses are strewn across the permafrost, because American hunters are only interested in taking the head. You're sure that the hunt will contribute to the collapse of the species, because people are indiscriminately shooting bears so they can feel like real men.

Let me explain how it really works.

Sport hunting is basically nothing more than taking a rich American along on a hunt that would have happened anyway. Every year, a certain number of "tags" are distributed to communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Let's imagine that Sachs Harbour gets five tags, meaning that the people who live there can kill up to five bears. They can choose to do the hunt with or without a rich American along for the ride. The difference is that the rich American will pay $10,000 US for the privilege of coming along.

It's true that the sport hunters are only interested in the bears' heads. So they take the heads. The local hunters take the rest of the bodies back to the community.

So if you've been following this, the choices are:

  1. Aboriginal people kill a set number of polar bears and use the meat, skin and fat.
  2. Aboriginal people kill the same number of polar bears, use the meat, skin and fat, and make $10,000 US.
Which offers a better chance for "subsistence"?