A new advertising campaign aims to raise awareness about the cultural importance and benefits of Canadian seal products.
The campaign, from national non-profit the Seals and Sealing Network, began on November 8. It includes a series of blog posts and videos highlighting the sustainability of seal harvesting and the health and community benefits of seal oil, meat, and fur.
“There was a lot of misinformation throughout the past decades about seal and seal products,” Romy Vaugeois, national coordinator of the network, told Cabin Radio of the project.
“We need to start by educating Canadians about the fact that seals are not extinct, they’re abundant … but also that seal products exist, and they’re out there, and they’re really good for health and for the environment.”
Vaugeois said though the campaign is nationwide, it particularly targets Ontario and Quebec, as surveys indicate those provinces are the biggest markets open to seal products.
Gerri Sharpe, an Inuk artist and advocate who lives in Yellowknife, is featured in one of the campaign’s videos. She explains seal is important to her as she is from Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, where people are known as Netsilingmiut, or people of the seal.
“I am of the seal,” she told Cabin Radio.
Sharpe hopes the video will help people “see the sustainability behind seal, the importance that seals have to Inuit,” and how sales of seal products can benefit Inuit artists and communities.
She also expects the campaign to help in the fight to lift bans on the import of seal products in the European Union and United States.
Though the import of seal products is banned across the EU, there is an exemption for products harvested by Indigenous hunters. Those products are required to have certification from the Nunavut, Northwest Territories, or Greenland governments.
A report published by the European Commission in 2020, reported by Nunatsiaq News, found the exemption had done little to alleviate the ban’s negative impact on northern economies.
Alongside the ad campaign, the Seals and Sealing Network administers Proudly Indigenous Crafts and Designs, an e-commerce platform for seal fur and leather products made by Indigenous artists. The platform has partnered with NWT Arts.
Johanna Tiemessen, the NWT government’s manager of arts programming and traditional economy, said northern artists on the platform had seen more traffic to their websites and social media since the site’s launch, which was helped by an influencer campaign.
“The influencers, who are on TikTok and have social media platforms and a huge following, become spokespeople for the use of seal and the sustainable use of seal, and the cultural aspect of it,” she said.
Tiemessen said the campaign is important as Indigenous harvesting practices have been negatively impacted by colonization, bans on seal products, and a decline in support for the fur industry.
“This is an opportunity for seal, the use of seal, the cultural importance of seal, and … the ability to make an economic income,” she said.
“That’s really important to Indigenous peoples who use seal.”