Inuit in Northern Labrador say they are being hit hard by the European Union's ban on the importation of seal hunt products, even though seal products from Inuit hunters are exempt from the EU legislation.
Inuit hunters believe the ban has reduced the demand for seal products, which has in turn lowered the price they receive for pelts.
"They got everything buggered up outside with the seal skins. Not giving no price," said seal hunter Roger Flowers of Hopedale, N.L. "I don't think it's very good what they're doing. A lot of sealers are losing their livelihoods, it's taken a lot away from me."
Dion Dakins, director of Nutan Furs based in Catalina, N.L., said sealers are earning about $16 per pelt this year. That's just a fraction of the $100-per-pelt prices hunters fetched a few years ago when the economy was stronger.
But Dakins doesn't believe the EU ban is driving seal prices down. He said the global recession is the single biggest problem affecting what hunters are getting.
"With the economy suffering, people are just spend less money on fur," he said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is one of the groups that fought for the European ban.
However, PETA vice-president Bruce Friedrich said his group also fought to keep Inuit hunters exempt from the legislation.
"We've been scapegoated. You know, it's people like [Gov. Gen.] Michaëlle Jean coming over and telling them that," said Friedrich. "Quite the opposite is true, I mean it's not a campaign that we or any other animal protection group is waging. Working against the commercial hunt, that would have a positive affect on prices of pelts for the Inuit."
But Inuit hunters say the scarcity of seal products hasn't boosted the price of pelts.
The seal plant owned by the Inuit government in the coastal Labrador community of Rigolet has stopped production because of low prices. Dakins said the seal fur processing plant he directs in Catalina bought fewer furs this year.
Hunter Roger Flowers said the ban is based on the misconception that hunters treat seals inhumanely. He's inviting members of groups such as PETA to come and witness the hunt first-hand.
"I don't think it's cruel," said Flowers. "If they wanted to know more, some of them should come up and go seal hunting with me they'd really see what's going on."