Authors Name: 
Carly Welham
University: 
University of British Columbia
Category: 
Gender Studies & Anthropology
Award winner

Selfies' vs 'Sealfies': Inuit Subsistence Hunting, Food Insecurity, and Animal Rights

At the 2014 Oscar Awards Ceremony, American talk show host and vegan Ellen DeGeneres took a 'selfie' photograph with a dozen well-known Hollywood celebrities and promised a $1 donation to a charity of her choice for each time the photo was shared online. 1.5 million shares later, DeGeneres donated $1.5 million to The Humane Society of the United States, which campaigns for the rights of animals, including protesting seal hunting in the Canadian Arctic, a cause which DeGeneres's personal website labels "one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government" (MacNeil, 2014, para. 5). This paper explores the online response of Inuit men, women, and communities affirming the value of seal hunting and their right to do so by posting photos on social media websites coined their "sealfies" of themselves seal hunting or in their seal skin attire. That seal hunting in the Canadian Arctic has been a visible, successful and controversial international animal rights campaign affecting the food security of Inuit communities for over fifty years makes its continuing debate in news and social medias an interesting case study of different cultural approaches to food. I use a life course approach to explore how Inuit foodways have changed drastically under forces of colonialism, climate change, and animal rights campaigns, and adapted to produce the current centrality of seal hunting in Inuit culture, with particular attention paid to food security, health, and environmental factors. The intimate relationship which Inuit have with seals as animals, food, and clothing makes seal hunting a meaningful facet of Inuit decolonization, identity work, habitus, social and cultural capital, and life politics.