Hunting polar bears -“We have a tendency to over-fetish cultural practices”

By Letre Sweeting

Jan. 13, 2016

When Mark Thompson sees an image of a polar bear, he doesn’t see something that should be hunted and killed.

After hearing the Inuit in Canada’s Arctic are killing polar bears as a rite of passage, the 13-year-old is upset.

The Inuit practice of hunting and killing the bears will have a bad effect on future generations, said Thompson.

“It’s unfair because, if you hunt them to extinction, you’ll live to regret it when they are ancient fossils. How would you feel if someone hunted your kids.”

April Sawyer is the principal of The Leadership Academy in the Bahamas. She agrees with Thompson.

The Inuit practice is simply not acceptable. When we know better, we should do better, she said.

“There are rites of passages all over the world that have to be re-thought or eradicated, take FGM (female genital mutilation), for example. The stance that should be taken is to inform these Inuit communities on how a lack of polar bears may affect their lives or eco-systems directly.

“By informing these Inuit people of the unfavourable outcome of their practice, it frames the issue as Inuit-centric instead of Canada-centric”, said Sawyer.

“We have a tendency to over-fetish cultural practices. If it is a cultural practice to buy every 16-year-old a Hummer, does that make it right?”

The Canadian Arctic is home to 60 per cent of the world’s polar bears, with 19 different populations, three of which are declining.

The main reason for this decline is climate change, which melts the sea ice crucial to the survival of the polar bears, said Polar Bears International, an organisation whose mission it is to conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on through media, science, and advocacy.