Inuit take stand on Ellen’s Oscar selfie

The Canadian
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Money raised goes to anti-sealing group

IQALUIT, Nunavut — It’s selfie versus sealfie. Canadian Inuit are taking on a famous photo by Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars after the celebrity gave some of the money raised from the star-studded picture to a group that fights seal hunting.

“Once in a while, a new pretty blond celebrity comes along and drowns our voice out,” Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, an Inuk from Iqaluit who’s organizing the protest, said Thursday. “I was surprised to see this time it’s Ellen.”

During the Oscar broadcast on March 2, host, comedian and daytime TV star DeGeneres went into the audience and snapped a selfie that included luminaries such as Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep and Kevin Spacey. Smartphone manufacturer Samsung, which made the phone DeGeneres used, promised to donate a dollar to charity for every time the photo was retweeted.

The selfie almost immediately crashed Twitter and became the most widely retweeted photo ever. DeGeneres donated $1.5 million of the money raised to the Humane Society of the United States, one of the loudest voices against the seal hunt.

In statements on her website, DeGeneres, a vegan, calls the hunt “one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government.”

In response, Arnaquq-Baril has encouraged Inuit from across Nunavut to use social media to post “sealfies” — pictures of themselves wearing sealskin clothes, standing beside freshly killed seals or looking forward to enjoying a tasty seal meal. Over the last couple of days, more than 100 have done so.

“We’re under attack from all directions,” said Arnaquq-Baril.

She said seal meat is a dietary staple for Inuit. And she defends the right to sell the skins.

“Inuit do live in 2014. We’re not in some crazy time warp and we need cash to live.

“Why should someone in Europe or the Unites States or southern Canada be allowed to make a living off their animals and not me?”

Other Inuit have posted YouTube videos explaining why they find the anti-sealing stance so offensive.

And a Newfoundland artist has shaved a portrait of DeGeneres into a glossy silver-and-black sealskin pelt.

Arnaquq-Baril says she’s had no response from the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Organizations: Samsung, Humane Society of the United States

Geographic location: Iqaluit, Nunavut, Europe Unites States Southern Canada Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • taylor yates
    March 29, 2014 - 21:21

    There is a huge difference between Inuit seal hunters, who use the whole seal and need it to live and commercial seal hunters, who skinthe seal, ssometimes alive and live the rest to rot on the ice. It's a lifestyle with respect vs a greedy money hoard.

  • X
    March 29, 2014 - 21:15

    They have Internet up there?

  • About Time
    March 27, 2014 - 22:20

    Canada's First Nations have a powerful voice when it comes to the seal hunt. Inuit who use social media and technology to get their story out their is the anti seal hunt fundamentalists worst nightmare. The response so far from the animal rights fundamentalists is that Inuit subsistence seal hunting is fine with them. Who are they to say what is fine. Do the animal rights fundamentalists and urban based anti seal hunt fundamentalists live a subsistence only lifestyle you think?