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.”
This image released by Ellen DeGeneres shows actors (front row from left) Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyong’o Jr., and (second row from left) Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a “selfie” portrait on a cellphone during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2 in Los Angeles.
— Photo by the Canadian Press/AP/Ellen DeGeneres
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.”
By Bob Weber in Edmonton