Emily McCoy, a US citizen arrested after putting a tofu cream pie in the face of Canada’s Fisheries Minister Gail Shea last year, was convicted of assault today and sentenced to two years probation during which time she is banned from entering Canada and from contacting Shea, Fisheries officials and officials from other Canadian institutions such as embassies and consulates.

During a speech given by Shea at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters, McCoy stood up, pushed the pie into Shea’s face and berated her for authorizing the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of baby seals each year on the east coast of Canada.  McCoy’s actions were denounced by Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP Gerry Byrne who declared PETA should be labeled a “terrorist organization” as a consequence (but believes terrorizing, torturing and skinning alive baby seals is a time-honoured tradition). 

MP Gerry Byrne eating pie. Seriously. He's eating pie. Probably not tofu cream, though

Gail Shea complained to media she had not yet received an apology from McCoy, ignoring the fact that the majority of Canadians are still waiting for an apology from her for using their tax dollars to fund the world’s largest slaughter of marine mammals.

Likewise, PETA’s Emily Lavender is still waiting for an apology from the coward who hid inside the Salty Dog costume as he physically assaulted her before shoving a pie in her face while she conducted a peaceful demonstration in St. John’s.  Interesting enough, police didn’t arrest him for assault.  I guess it’s only assault if it’s a federal government official getting the pie in the face…

The question is not whether pieing constitutes assault, or a terrorist act, or whether McCoy’s sentence was stiff enough, or whether the revenge taken against Emily Lavendar in St. John’s was appropriate.  The real question is:  How the hell do we ban Gail Shea from Canada?

Photo PETA

Photo PETA

Mass hysteria seems to be the response to CBC’s article today regarding PETA’s latest anti-sealing campaign.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently launched a new website ‘Olympic Shame 2010‘ in response to the 2010 Olympics being held in Vancouver next year. PETA’s website transforms the three cuddly Olympic mascots Miga, Quatchi and Sumi into evil thugs, chasing and clubbing baby seals.

CBC in a news story published today on its website states that the Olympic Shame 2010 website “depicts blood-covered Inuit chasing a seal pup with stone-age clubs” and “Inuit with seal blood dripping from their hands and mouths, wielding stone-age clubs.”  Herb Jacques, who heads the Inuit community government in Makkovik, on Labrador’s northern coast, told CBC “To me it’s a mockery. It’s degrading to the Inuit.” Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said she has written to PETA to ask the organization to stop using Inuit people in its campaigns.

Response on the CBC message board by the usual pro-sealing advocates has been swift. People posting in response to the story have been practically frothing at the mouth, crying “racism” and demanding that the Canadian government shut PETA’s website down.

Photo Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Photo SSCS

This is a clear example of people getting up in arms before stopping to even consider whether the information they’ve been given is in fact correct. In this case, it is not.

First of all, the three Olympic mascots are NOT Inuit. They are fictional non-human creatures created for the Olympic website. Miga is a sea bear, Quatchi is a sasquatch and Sumi is an animal spirit that lives in BC.

Secondly, nowhere on the website does the word “Inuit” even appear. There is a video and photos of Atlantic Canadian commercial sealers killing pups. Inuit people are not depicted.

So why the accusations of racism? Why the hysteria? Why has CBC – a crown corporation directly responsible to Canadian Parliament and whose president is appointed by the Prime Minister - enflamed an already volatile situation with irresponsible and incorrect reporting?  Could it be yet one more action in the Canadian government’s campaign to hide the sins of the commercial seal slaughter behind the Inuit subsistence hunt, blurring the lines between the two, making the commercial slaughter appear necessary, and playing on the general public’s acceptance of subsistence hunting?

Photo Bridget Curran/ACASC

Photo Bridget Curran/ACASC

This comes close upon the heels of the government’s last PR stunt.  Recently, Governor General Michaelle Jean while on a visit to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, stunned reporters and cameramen when she sliced open a dead seal and ate a piece of the seal’s heart. She then spoke to reporters, defending the killing of seals, claiming that sealing is a “part of the way of life of thousands of people in our country. In the North, in the Arctic, in the East, also in coastal regions.” When asked by reporters if her actions were a message to the European Parliament which had recently banned seal products with an exemption for Inuit products, Jean replied, “Take from that what you will.” Clearly, that’s a “yes.”  She also defended her actions, explaining that it would have been rude to refuse the hospitality offered her by the people of Rankin Inlet as they prepared for the ceremonial community feast.

Response to her actions was swift. Some condemned her actions as a cynical PR stunt using Inuit as pawns in a government strategy to blur the lines between the two hunts and confuse the issue in people’s minds. Others applauded her actions, believing she acted out of solidarity with Inuit and was merely accepting a gift offered by the Inuit as part of the ceremonial dinner.

Photo Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Photo SSCS

What most people do not realize is that seal has never been part of that ceremonial dinner. Rebecca Aldworth of Humane Society International/Canada in a letter published in The Hill Times points out that town manager Paul Wayne had stated that seal meat is not normally present at community feasts. Seal was not on the menu for that particular meal. Jean had expressed hope that it would be served, and hunters accordingly went out and killed two seals.  Jean was not offered the seal heart – she asked if she could try it.  Personally, I find it hard to believe that in her previous FOUR visits to the north, never once tried seal, especially considering it is part of the staple diet in those communities.   Equally hard to believe that it was mere coincidence that caused her to request seals be killed and brought to her for her to try when cameras just happened to be present, shortly after the EU voted on banning seal products.

Of course, anyone opposing the Governor General’s actions at Rankin Inlet was branded a “racist” and a “southerner” who did not understand or appreciate the northern way of life, guilty of trying to stop the Inuit subsistence hunt.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Many opposing the commercial slaughtering of seals do not target the Inuit subsistence hunt.  It is the large-scale industrialized annual slaughter of baby seals for their skin that is opposed.

This latest CBC story and its ensuing comments would make it appear that opposing the killing of seals is now automatically perceived to be racist.  This is a dangerous strategy the government is following and the Inuit would do well to distance themselves from such a campaign or risk a backlash.

Vancouver Olympic Shame: Learn more.