Saturday, March 28, 2009

Canadian Icon: The Seal Hunt

No not that Seal. We don't hunt soft rock singers in Canada...yet.

We now present our third in an occasional series that highlights the people, places and things that define Canada. Our nation was only founded in 1867 so many of our Icons predate our glorious independence. Today we look at an icon that is one of our oldest and also one of our most controversial...The Seal Hunt.

The Seal Hunt is known by many names. It can be called the Seal Slaughter, the Seal Cull or the most horrific thing humans can do to the cutest rascals around. It's origins are unknown, but legends persist that the Inuit rewarded the males in the tribe who would kill the most adorable critter they could find. They also needed fur clothing because it was damn cold up there. The animal that solved both issues was the seal.

Hey Little Buddy. You're about to get beaten in the head.

When Europeans landed on these shores starting with John Cabot in 1497 they quickly looked for resources they could exploit. Africa already being known for it's exportable humans, North America became known as the land where vain Europeans could acquire the materials to create garments from the most darling animals around. Fashion Houses in Paris and Milan were filled with clothes made from beavers, bears and most charmingly the seal. The Royal Houses of Europe and their assorted hangers on became the biggest customers and their subjects wanting to have some of that royal mystique followed them. Much like the lemmings which also were a prized commodity.

We flash forward to the 20th century. Modern Science has created wonder materials to keep us warm and in style. Celebrities needing the least controversial issue to make a stand choose the seal hunt. Fallen idols like Brigitte Bardot and Paul McCartney force the issue on to the back pages of newspapers as they visit Canada and assure coverage by getting pictures with the cuddly Seals.

You call this brutal? Call me after you've seen how parents act at a peewee hockey game.

An issue so controversial and nuanced can't be fully tackled in a forum such as this. Briefly though the Seal Hunt provides jobs to Newfoundland, the Arkansas of Canada and protects other species from overpopulated seals destroying their needs. Others wonder why a less attractive animal couldn't be beaten over the head horribly. Still more think that it gives Canada a much needed edge. Without the Seal Hunt we would be America's forgotten slow brother living in the attic. It's the leather jacket makeover to a geek.

This is what makes the Seal Hunt....A Canadian Icon.

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