Anthony Bourdain and the seal hunt – will he eat crow?

IFAW has never campaigned against subsistence hunting of seals by Inuit, a hunt Mr. Bourdain has completely confused with the commercial hunting of seals for their fur. c. IFAWCelebrity Chef Anthony Bourdain had Twitter all a-flutter when he came out smacking his lips in support of the seal hunt.

As so often happens when celebrities wade into unfamiliar issues, his tweets display a gross lack of understanding of Canada, its geography, its people, and its wildlife.

On top of mixing up two distinct geographic areas, Mr. Bourdain fails to understand the difference between the massive commercial slaughter of baby harp seals for their fur – to which IFAW is very much opposed – and the subsistence hunt for ringed seals by Inuit for food and other purposes – which IFAW has never campaigned against. So, we wanted to set the record straight on a few things…

There isn’t a ‘total ban’ on Inuit seal products, in fact there is no ban at all.

We’re guessing that Mr. Bourdain is referring to the EU ban on seal products -- but the Inuit have a full exemption, and precious few Inuit seal skins were ever exported to the EU in the first place.

In fact, pretty much no one is campaigning against Inuit sealing. If he is referring to the Canadian seafood boycott being run in the United States, the link to Inuit is pretty much… non-existent.

Huh? Did Mr. Bourdain suggest Inuit were being asked to give up eating seals? Again, Inuit have a constitutional right to hunt and eat seals and no one is asking them to give it up.

Here, Mr. Bourdain entirely confuses the commercial seal hunt with the Inuit seal hunt.

While the Inuit hunt may be a ‘tribal practice’ and ‘absolutely necessary’ for Inuit, the commercial seal hunt is nothing of the sort – it is a part-time endeavour that occurs 2-3 weeks of the year, where fishermen kill as many seals as they can to make a bit of extra cash.

The Canadian government’s own data shows that seals are killed for their skins and flippers, the rest of the animal is thrown overboard like garbage.

Unlike Inuit sealing, the commercial hunt is a hunt primarily for fur, which is used to make unnecessary luxury products for export that few people can afford.

For a chef, Anthony Bourdain displays a shocking ignorance of where his marine “food” comes from. It is disappointing to see such hogwash repeated by someone who should know a whole lot about the human impacts of consuming fish.

Seals are not responsible for the collapse of cod, and there is no scientific data to show that ‘controlling’ seal populations will help fish stocks. Human overfishing is to blame for depleted fish stocks – not seals. Check out our video on the subject

IFAW has been campaigning to end the commercial exploitation of seals since 1969, correcting misinformation and bearing witness to what happens to seals on the ice.

We hope that Mr. Bourdain will learn the facts on this issue…I’d love to have dinner with him – perhaps he’d eat (proverbial) crow.


For more information on IFAW’s campaign to end the commercial seal hunt visit

To learn about IFAW’s position on Inuit and aboriginal hunts, visit our information page.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime