I was shocked today to find out the new stance Greenpeace has taken on the cruel seal fur trade. As an organization that many animal advocates have supported for years it is hugely disappointing and dangerous for the fur industry as a whole. Captain Paul Watson explains it best in his commentary below.
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
My recent highlighting of Greenpeace Arctic Campaign director Jon Burgwald’s endorsement of sustainable sealing has elicited a response. Here it is with my comments.
Captain Paul Watson: Unless the commercial sealing operation pretends to be indigenous. When a seal pelt is processed by a factory for sale in Asia or Europe that is all the proof needed that the product is commercial. Jon Burgwald stated loud and clear that it is time to move on and I quote:
“I think its great, also, we need to move beyond the notion that all sealing and seal products are a bad thing. I think it’s good that we can start promoting sustainable seal products.”
When asked if it was now okay to wear seal products, “It’s true….. It is a sustainable hunt. It’s a very sustainable way of hunting.”
Burgwald goes on to say that he thinks it is good that Greenpeace can start to promote sustainable seal products.
Now being in favor of killing seals is bad enough but Burgwald say that Greenpeace intends to promote seal products.
I fail to see what possible justification that Greenpeace can have for not only endorsing seal products but also for promoting seal products.
Greenpeace Director Jon Burgwald: Late last year, I was interviewed about Greenpeace’s position on seal hunting by the American news channel MSNBC. I think it’s important to clarify where we stand on this important subject. Greenpeace is completely against the commercial hunting of seals for profit. We always will be.
But the large-scale, commercial hunt is a world away from the traditional practices of Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic. In fact, Indigenous communities have shown time and again that they understand how to protect the Arctic ecosystem they call home, and their hunting practices have never been a threat to seal or whale populations. They do not hunt seal pups, and their hunt is conducted with respect for the animal. They hunt because it is a crucial way to sustain themselves and their families in the harsh Arctic environment.
Captain Paul Watson: Come on Jon, you were speaking directly to the marketing of seal fur as fashion. When we see a fashion model traipsing down the runway displaying a seal fur jacket are you asking us to believe that she needs that jacket to survive the harsh Arctic environment? Once seal fur leaves the environs of the Arctic to be worn in Tokyo, Beijing, or strangely even in Dubai, it can no longer be classified as indigenous. There is nothing indigenous, cultural or traditional about marketing fur to wealthy people in climates outside of the Arctic. When fashion designers like Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood denounce fur in fashion, why would Greenpeace even think of promoting it?
Back in the Eighties at an International meeting of fur and whaling industry executives in Iceland, the Canadian Department of Fisheries proposed a marketing scheme to counter anti-fur and anti-whaling protests by linking their industry with indigenous communities to present the illusion that the product is both cultural and sustainable. It is a lie that seems to have seduced even Greenpeace.
Nobody, not Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd or any other organization has ever campaigned against Inuit communities. But Canadian Federal monies were pumped into Inuit communities to enlist them in the defense of the commercial sealing industry.
The government of Canada says that baby seals are no longer slaughtered. That depends of course on the definition of a baby seal, which the government now claims is older than three weeks. They may be helpless on the ice, unable to swim, with survival skills unlearned, but a redefinition according to the industry now defines them as adults.
When indigenous people are employed by commercial interests their killing for the industry can no longer be considered indigenous. The Great Greenland Fur Tannery sells millions of Euros of seal and polar bear fur every year. This is not subsistence, it’s a commercial business.
In an article by Kevin McGwin (November 11th, 2015) on the World Policy Blog provides more insight:
“Despite everything the organization had done to express its support for indigenous sealing in recent years, most people still seemed to be caught off guard when Jon Burgwald, a Danish Greenpeace Arctic campaigner, appeared wearing a sealskin vest. (At the Arctic Circle conference in Reykjavík, Iceland in October 2015)
The vest was a gift to Greenpeace, presented to Burgwald by Great Greenland, a tannery, after he explained during a report broadcast on MSNBC, an American news outlet, that it was never Greenpeace’s intention to damage the livelihoods of indigenous hunters.
Burgwald admits that the comments and wearing the vest are a part of the Greenpeace’s efforts to own up to its mistakes, but he underscores that the organization supports sealing primarily because “it is the right thing to do.”
“This is something that is good for our relationship to the people of the North, but it’s not a way to win new members.”
The Great Greenland Tannery is not some little cottage business. It is a major exporter of seal and polar bear fur. It is a commercial enterprise supplying the demand from the fashion industry. By accepting a vest worth about 750 Euros and publicly wearing it, Burgwald is sending a clear message that Greenpeace endorses commercial sealing. And as Burgwald clearly stated supporting seal is “the right thing to do.”
What really makes me angry is that Burgwald states that the Greenpeace seal campaigns of the past, initiated and organized by myself were a mistake. They maybe a mistake to corporate Greenpeace today but we who led and participated in those campaigns have no apologies for the success of our activism. Our efforts brought about the collapse of the commercial seal fur market and we are damn proud of the results.
My crew and I were beaten, jailed, dragged through frozen Labrador waters, fined and persecuted in Greenpeace’s name and Burgwald dismisses our efforts today as “a mistake.”
Greenpeace Director Jon Burgwald: We respect their right to continue this tradition.
Captain Paul Watson: This statement implies that anyone opposed to the marketing of seal fur does not respect the rights of indigenous communities.
Greenpeace Director Jon Burgwald: I’ve visited many communities in the Arctic over the last decade and have seen both how Indigenous Peoples conduct the hunt and how extremely important it is for them. It is not just a matter of culture, it is a matter of survival. Many Indigenous communities in the far north rely on seal products for food, warmth and clothing. They sell some of these products so they can sustain their livelihoods and keep their families alive through the harsh Arctic winter.
Captain Paul Watson: Once again Burgwald implies that seal fur products marketed outside the Arctic are a necessity for survival of indigenous people. He paints a pretty picture of the Inuit hunter depending upon the seal for survival and this associates with the image of the hunter with his dog sled, handmade bone spear, patiently waiting for hours before a hole in the ice in sub-zero temperatures waiting for a seal to deliver itself to him. The reality is a hunter on a snowmobile or a power boat with a high powered rifle with scope shooting seals from a distance and hauling dozens of pels at a time back on a sled pulled by his snow-mobile. The odds for the seals and polar bears have changed dramatically.
Greenpeace Director Jon Burgwald: On the other hand, the Canadian Government continues to allow the killing of upwards of half a million seal pups a year. This Government has a long history of sacrificing the health of our oceans for the short-term interests of the fishing and sealing industry. This is why we started our sealing campaign in the 1970s — and why we still oppose the commercial hunt.
Captain Paul Watson: First of all Jon, you did not start the Greenpeace seal campaigns in the Seventies. I did. You were not there and thus you speculate about the reasons. Greenpeace then, as I do now, opposed the entire commercial fur industry. When seal fur is marketed it becomes commercial and that is exactly what you were endorsing in your interview. Today Canada sets a quota of over 400,00 seals each year but the kill is lower than 20% because the work of anti-sealing groups has undermined the markets in most of the world. Canada needs the association with indigenous traditions to continue to push for the re-opening of the markets. For example, The European Union offered the Inuit an exemption but the Inuit under the direction of the government of Canada refused this exemption and refused to disassociate the indigenous hunt from the commercial hunt. We need to continue to undermine the lobbying of the fur industry especially the sealing industry and your statements are ammunition for that industry. Just like Patrick Moore did when he betrayed Greenpeace principles to sell-out to the nuclear, GMO and chemical industries, you are now doing the same for the fur industry.
Greenpeace Director Jon Burgwald: But when Greenpeace and others campaigned against the seal hunt in the 1970s and 1980s, we didn’t adequately distinguish between the inhumane and cruel industrial hunt and the traditional one. The results were devastating to many Arctic Indigenous communities. Hunting and fishing in this harsh landscape is, for many, their only means of survival.
Captain Paul Watson: Again what do you mean by “we” Jon? We did indeed distinguish between indigenous hunting and commercial hunting and you would know that if you were there but again, you were not there. There never has been any campaign to target traditional Inuit communities. We opposed the Canadian and Norwegian commercial hunts and not a single indigenous person living a traditional life style was involved in that activity then, nor are they today.
I fail to see how it was devastating to Arctic indigenous communities. They continued to kill seals without interference for food and clothing. What they could no longer do was supply fur to the commercial markets. And it was through the Inuit communities that the fur industry secured arctic fox, polar bear and other species they could no longer legally exploit themselves.
The destructive fur trade that began with the Hudson’s Bay and Northwest Companies in the 18th Century was fuelled by recruitment of Native American communities to supply the fur they marketed to Europeans. Whereas Native Americans were not a major threat to wildlife populations, their alliance with the European fur companies devastated beaver and otter populations and drove species like the sea mink to extinction.
Greenpeace Director Jon Burgwald: Greenpeace is campaigning to protect marine mammals across the world — including critically endangered species like the Vaquita, Maui’s dolphin, and Okinawa dugong. We’re also tackling some of the huge global issues that affect their survival, like overfishing, ocean pollution and acidification. We will never stop campaigning for healthy, clean oceans, or supporting the rights of Indigenous Peoples everywhere.
Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd has two vessels in the Sea of Cortez working in cooperation with the Mexican Navy. This is the 2nd year of Operation Milagro. Greenpeace is not there. Greenpeace does not oppose the slaughter of pilot whales in the Danish Faroe Islands, nor the massacre of dolphins in Japan. Greenpeace has not sent a ship to the Southern Ocean to defend whales since 2007. Greenpeace does good work on numerous issues but refuses to address important factors contributing to the destruction of life in the ocean and contributing to climate change, things like industrial fish consumption and meat production. Greenpeace refused to be interviewed for the film Cowspiracy for fear of alienating their meat-eating supporters. Greenpeace has taken the position that there is sustainable fisheries and sustainable logging and refuses to acknowledge that 7.5 billion people cannot allow for “sustainable” exploitation. There is simply no such thing as sustainable exploitation of species presently under assault by escalating consumer demands. There is no necessity for an industrial fur industry and when fur coats are marketed to the public, the word “sustainable” used in such a context is absurd.
Greenpeace Director Jon Burgwald: I’m hugely grateful to all of our supporters who continue to make this work possible.
Captain Paul Watson: I would think Jon, you will be losing a great many supporters who will not agree with Greenpeace endorsing commercial sealing with the lie that it is sustainable. Greenpeace needs to do some damage control here and that involves sacking Jon Burgwald and issuing a statement that Greenpeace is absolutely 100% opposed to the commercial trade in fur with an acknowledgement that fur is not a sustainable product nor can it be described even remotely as “eco-friendly.”
Note: John Burgwald has taken pains to delete online pictures of himself wearing seal fur but these two pictures expose Jon Burgwald as the seal fur loving traitor to Greenpeace and the seals that he is and the attached tweets from Burgwald shared with Nauja Bianco, a marketing director for the Great Greenland Tannery Company speak for themselves.
Pictures: Bergwald and a friend sporting sealskin coats and Burgwald (with red bowtie) proudly wearing his sealskin vest gift from Great Greenland Tannery.