Celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain is pleading with colleagues who have signed on to a boycott of Canadian seafood products because of the seal hunt, saying the campaign could doom Inuit communities.
In a series of messages on his Twitter feed that began Monday morning, Bourdain calls out about 40 chefs who have joined a boycott sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, a longtime opponent of the seal hunt.
"I'm all for protecting seals, but a total ban dooms the indigenous people above [the] Arctic Circle to death or relocation," Bourdain wrote in one tweet.
"To hold the entire Canadian seafood industry hostage over sustainable, absolutely necessary tribal practice is ill considered ... I completely understand well meaning intentions of good hearted chefs who signed this petition. But they are wrong. Visit the Inuit."
In his series No Reservations, Bourdain travelled to an Inuit community and joined in a community hunt and feast, which he described on the air as "a mix of blood-spattered butchery and loving nourishment. A meal like I've never experienced."
On his Twitter feed, Bourdain also noted that the Canadian seal population is healthy, and that "unconstrained seal populations might well be a problem" for cod stocks that have already been battered by overfishing.
"I question, too, whether collectively punishing the entire Canadian fishing industry (and fishermen) over sealing is fair or wise," Bourdain wrote.
The Humane Society of the United States is calling Bourdain's criticisms "misinformation."
Kathryn Kullberg, director of wildlife protection with the group, insists that the boycott is not aimed at Inuit, but at an inhumane commercial industry.
To hold the entire Canadian seafood industry hostage over sustainable, absolutely necessary tribal practice is ill considered.— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) October 28, 2013
I'm all for protecting seals, but a total ban dooms the indigenous people above arctic circle to death or relocation. @dannybowien consider— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) October 28, 2013
"The dead seals go on the very same boats used to catch seafood the rest of the year, so it is the same exact industry and there's a very clear link," she told CBC News.
She said that despite Bourdain's claims, the boycott efforts are gaining ground.
Meanwhile, Bourdain's criticism is being applauded by defenders of the seal hunt who usually expect condemnation from celebrities.
"The guy knows what he's talking about. He's sort of been there and he's done that," said Todd Perrin, a St. John's chef who has from time to time served such dishes as smoked seal and seal carpaccio.
"It's an easy thing for some celebrity chef in New York City to sign an email and say, 'Yeah, I'm against abhorrent treatment,’ and this kind of stuff," said Perrin. "They, for the most part, aren't fully aware of what actually happens. It's just the propaganda of the last 30, 40 years."