Ellen Degeneres’ now legendary Oscar night star-packed selfie quickly became the most retweeted image in Twitter’s 8 year history, knocking President Obama’s election win photo out of the top spot. Since its entrance into the pop culture machine on March 2nd, the selfie to end all selfies has been accused of being nothing more than a publicity stunt for Samsung’s new Galaxy Note smartphones and has already seen it’s share of parodies, from Jimmy Kimmel’s selfie with the Clinton family to Turkish protesters using it as a symbol of the “defiance of demonstrators” against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. President Obama, in a recent appearance on her show, even teased Degeneres, jokingly referring to her selfie tweet as “pretty cheap stunt“.
Now, Inuit seal hunters are parodying the selfie by posting pictures of themselves in sealskin furs, and dubbing them “Sealfies”, to protest Degeneres’ stance against seal hunting in Canada, which she calls “one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government”. In a post on the website for her company Unikkaat Studios Inc, Inuk filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril stated she was disappointed in Denegeres’ decision to donate $1.5 million (Samsung had apparently promised Denegeres’ they would donate $1 to a charity of her choosing for every retweet her selfie received) to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an organization which actively campaigns against the hunting of seals. In the post, Arnaquq-Baril credited the “Sealfie” idea to her “hilarious” friend Laakkuluk Williamson. Arnaquq-Baril goes on to say:
Thanks for your wonderful career, it is an inspiration to many women, the LGBT community, and anyone who’s had to fight for survival and fair treatment. We as Inuit are among them, and I hope you will take your responsibility to be informed on this issue seriously. The days of a free-for-all unregulated seal hunt endangering the population (which Inuit never took part in anyway) are long gone. Fighting against commercial seal hunting is no longer relevant in today’s society, but it brings animal rights groups a lot of money, while ensuring the poorest populations in North America are even poorer.
Inuit would prefer to see stronger animal protections for ALL species, not just seals. Ironically, people who fight against seal hunting are making it more difficult for arctic peoples to protect our animals and the environment, and I’d be happy to tell you in more detail how this is so.
To speak publicly about the seal hunting issue is a minefield, and you’ve jumped right into it, but as Inuit we try to be respectful and reasonable when discussing it, and this causes many to underestimate how desperate and upset we are about the issue. Please take a moment to consider the plight of the Inuit. Our voice almost always gets drowned out on the issue.
A recent study, released Thursday, by the Council of Canadian Academies states that the Inuit of Nunavut, where seal-hunting is the largest source of livelihood, have the highest food insecurity rate for any indigenous population in a developed country, at a mind-boggling 68 percent. Meanwhile, on Twitter, the hashtag #Sealfie is gaining more supports and tweets by the hour.
— Jordin Tootoo (@Jtootoo22) March 29, 2014
— Jeannie V.Tukkiapik (@Yinivee) March 29, 2014