An Inuk (Inuit) boy killed a seal with a hockey stick in a moment of opportunity to help feed his family; he is of course being criticized and praised for the act.
A photo of a smiling Inuk (Inuk is the singular noun, Inuit is the plural) boy holding a seal in one hand and the hockey stick he used to kill it in the other, has predictably caused an internet firestorm, as such images are wont to do.
The image, taken by the boy's uncle, Liam Mulgrew, was shared on the CBC Nunavut Facebook page. From there it went to a couple other places, including Reddit, where it generated a good many comments.
The boy, Ryder Aviogana, hails from Kugluqtuq, Nunavut. Kugluqtuq is a hamlet located at the mouth of the Coppermine River in the far northwest region of Nunavut, Canada. It's about as isolated as you can get.
Mulgrew captioned the photo with this: "A youth from Kugluqtuq, Ryder Aviogana, caught his seal with a hockey stick down on the shore near the community. His Uncle Liam Mulgrew says, 'He makes me really proud to be his uncle!.'"
Animal lovers far removed and ignorant of life in the great white north questioned and attacked the boy for his act, while many others, including folks who live in close contact with the Canadian wilderness, came to his defense.
It's all so predictable by now, the back and forth between those who have a Disneyesque view of animals and those whose subsistence doesn't come in cellophane-wrapped packages.
The internet has allowed everyone and anyone to share their opinions. Some commentators called the act "inhumane" and expressed their disgust, with one person declaring "I think his ancestors would be appalled that taking a life in this horribly cruel way is being glorified. It's not sport, it's violence."
But there were many more supportive and thoughtful posts made by people who truly understand what it takes to live in an area where resources and food are precious commodities.
One person wrote,
"I am always proud of our culture and traditions, we Inuit and Inuvialuit are brought up to live a survival lifestyle with the integrity of our ancestors. I grew up living on an Island and the struggle of life was to hunt and kill our food, there were no gardens or a supermarket! The animals we kill for food was not meant to be in pictures or a zoo, there are here for humanity to survive! I particularly must say that in our culture, if we see an animal (especially young adults) that is in our food chain, we will do whatever it takes to get the animal. This boy did what any boy would do, get the food for his family. This was a hunters weapon at that moment, not a hockey stick! I would hunt with this boy any day!"
Seal hunting is still a controversial topic, given the huge international campaign against it several years ago. It was an easy sell, with images of baby seals being clubbed to death by commercial profiteers. But Canadian indigenous people have a constitutionally protected right to hunt marine mammals, including seals.
It is little wonder that some people are incensed by a boy clubbing a seal with a hockey stick. Still, we believe that the boy's act does not merit the criticism he's received. He saw an opportunity to help feed his family and he took it - in an area where, as the commentator above said, there are no gardens or supermarkets.
We've seen this kind of online holier-than-thou outrage before. Last year an Alaskan boy was viciously harassed by internet keyboard warriors for partaking in a whale hunt to help feed his village.
And of course there is an army of ignorant naysayers ready to criticize just about any hunter who shares a photo of themselves with their kill.
It's what we've come to expect, and expect it we should. I'm not sure what the best response to such negativity is, but ignoring it wholesale is probably not a bad idea. And there's always the delete button for those who choose to share photos.
A sense of humor helps too, as this person who made what is arguably the best tongue-in-cheek comment on young Ryder's seal photo aptly demonstrates:
"So if a kid beats a small, slow moving, defenseless animal to death with a hockey stick it's considered a 'successful hunt', but if I do it I'm 'drunk' and 'banned from the petting zoo' again."
Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his Facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.