I'm sure most people outside Canada (and probably very many inside the country) have missed the country's Governor General's latest shenanigans. During her latest venture into an indigenous Canadian Inuits territory she duly helped herself to bits and pieces of a seal's heart that she gobbled down raw. In the words of The Toronto Star newspaper:[she] "revelled in helping herself to the heart of the dripping carcass". More than that, "Jean helped to gut the seal before swallowing a slice of the mammal's heart, ignoring the European Union vote earlier this month to impose a ban on seal products on grounds the seal hunt is cruel." All of that is probably only slightly more barbaric than our daily mass slaughter of other animals that we breed in mass breeding factories. The Governor General's defense of this "ancient" Inuit practice goes like this: "These are ancient practices that are part of a way of life," Jean said, framing her gutsy gesture as an act of solidarity with the Inuit. "If you can't understand that, you're completely missing the reality of life here." That is so funny, really.
I mean, for starters, what does an exceedingly well-paid governor general really know about the daily lives of Inuit people? Surely nothing first-hand. Further, what if the Inuit had another "ancient practice", say, eating 5 year old kids alive (I know they're not doing that, stay with me!). If the governor general's view is that the slaughter of seals is acceptable because it has been done for such a long time, it would follow that - all other things being equal - any number of other things that are traditionally done are justifiable on the grounds that they have always been done. This is a pretty conservative take on the world. It seems to suggest essentially that she does not believe the Inuit are able to evolve beyond their ancient practices, and that for that reason we should respect whatever it is that anciently they happen to do. - Mind you, another argument that I have seen is, is that there's no other way for these folks to feed themselves. Well, perhaps the Canadian government should consider offering sensible job alternatives to the people in question instead of celebrating their barbaric "ancient times" activities.
My problem with the Governor General's take is essentially that it is disrespectful of the Inuit, because it does not take them seriously as citizens in the same way that other citizens are being taken seriously. Being taken seriously means not only to be respected in important ways, but also to be held accountable for what one does. If Canada has laws in place that prohibit cruelty to sentient animals it will hold those of its citizens accountable that commit such acts of cruelty... that is, unless they're Inuit, in which case the country's Governor General joins in the fun. The bizarre reason for this is that the cruelty in question is one enjoyed since "ancient times", hence it's kinda cool. Ethical rationales therefore clearly do not apply to Canada's indigenous people, at least that seems to be the Governor General's logic. What does this tell us about respect for indigenous peoples?
What I also find odd about the ongoing public discussion about this (well, discussion in the news media) is that the issue is presented as one of liberal city talking heads (me) vs the romanticised ancient Inuits. Well, even if that divide was as clear-cut, the question remains whether treating animals in such a manner is acceptable, ancient or no... adding labels to folks (aka liberal city based talking head) begs this question.