Telluride, Colorado: The recent outbreak of Mad Cow Disease in Canada has exposed something most people are completely unaware of - the exportation of musk ox and caribou from Northern Canada to the United States.
Speaking from the Telluride Mountain Film Festival after the showing of a very disturbing film on the Congolese Bush Meat Trade, Captain Paul Watson was furious to be made aware of the large commercial slaughter of northern "bush meat" from Nunavut. Nunavut is the Inuit governed territory that was formally a part of the Northwest Territories.
Recently the Canadian beef industry suffered a severe economic blow with the discovery of a case of Mad Cow disease in the Canadian province of Alberta. This resulted in an immediate ban on the importation of Canadian beef into the United States.
In response to the ban on beef exports, the Government of Nunavut began to lobby the United States Department of Commerce to exempt both caribou and musk ox.
Rosemary Keenainak, the assistant deputy minister of sustainable development for Nunavut, is claiming that musk ox and caribou are disease free.
"What is harvested up here in the north is not linked in any way, shape or form to the mad cow disease that has been occurring in Alberta," said Keenainak.
Brian Zawadski of the Nunavut Development Corporation said he first heard about the ban when a shipment of caribou meat from Kivalliq Arctic Foods was stopped at the American border on Thursday.
Kivalliq Arctic Foods, owned by the Nunavut Development Corporation, makes $400,000 a year selling musk ox and caribou meat to Americans. Zawadski said the meat plant sells a third of its meat to the U.S.
"I hope there is no long-term damage to our product and to the product coming out of Canada as a whole," he said.
Keenainak said her ministry has asked the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to lobby on behalf of Nunavut's meat exporters.
Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society expressed surprise at the news.
"We were not even aware of wild caribou and musk ox being hunted commercially and exported to the United States. Under the guise of aboriginal subsistence, these animals are being commercially exploited and referred to as products. This is unacceptable and we will be countering by exploring the law that permits this exotic meat into the United States and we will publicize this issue to groups that are in a position to lobby for this trade to be prohibited into the United States."
"This trade in wild northern ungulates has been hush-hush for some time." Continued Watson, "It won't be so secretive from here on in. These are the same people lobbying the U.S. government to allow the sale of seals, walrus and whales. If alerted, I am sure that we can organize a large number of Americans to organize opposition to this slaughter of wildlife in the Arctic."
"The average American has a romantic view of the Inuit. They see them on dog sleds, hunting seals and caribou for subsistence with bows and spears. The reality is a corporate approach utilizing helicopters, snowmobiles, high-powered rifles, freezers, organized commercial trade and marketing. The Northern Wilderness has been turned into an enormous ranch for the marketing of native species for sale as exotic meat to people living far from the Arctic Circle."
For further information contact: Captain Paul Watson at [email protected]