Greenpeace and Seal Hunting – Necessary evil? Or just another NGO corruption story?

A few weeks ago I was asked by fellow young naturalist and conservationist Liz Morley ( who I have mentioned in a previous post ) to write a guest post for her site ‘Planet on the Edge’ – https://planetontheedge.wordpress.com –  I was asked to write a post that had a foot in the doorway of environmental issues, so I chose a topic that I had very recently looked at and that had a great impact on the way that I think about wildlife campaigners and the fight to protect wildlife. Here is also a link to Liz’s personal wildlife and environmental blog: https://ecologyliz.wordpress.com.


For as long as I can remember I have been an avid follower of Greenpeace. What they have achieved in terms of the protection of wildlife and natural habitats has been absolutely fantastic, and I find that the campaigns that they carry out to be very well organised and extremely well thought out, resulting generally in success (something I believe is very precious in the world of conservation). 

So imagine the utter shock and disbelief I had when I received word of the atrocities that people claimed they had supposedly allowed to continue; the clubbing and unnecessary cruel deaths of many hundreds of seals, photographs that I could scarcely look at due to the distress they caused me. The campaign certainly seemed legitimate and in the best interests of wildlife and the environment (can be accessed here: http://fb.me/76xbPqlOW). 

I was greatly saddened at the picture I was now drawing of Greenpeace as an organisation in my mind – a corrupted NGO (None Governmental Organisation) once on the frontline of the peace and prosperity of the natural world, but constricted by the cables of greed and money, rubbing shoulders with power hungry governments and losing the care that it once had for the environment for want of money and influence.

But was I wrong? A glimmer of hope shone from a chink in the armour of doubt I had wrought for myself. Had I missed something? Greenpeace had so far resisted the corruption that can sadly happen to other NGO’s and organisations like it, and over the years they have proved time and time again that they always put wildlife and the environment first and not been lured by the temptations of money and influence; a great and much admired by me example being the way that they tackled the exploitation of oil in the Arctic and Alaska, which in my opinion they had handled magnificently. Was this just another campaign to smear the good reputation of an organisation whose only desire was to do good? I mean, the RSPB had also been the victim of such a campaign called ‘You forgot the birds’, and this turned out to be utter drivel. I needed some answers, and there was one place were I could get them…Greenpeace themselves.

I wrote to Greenpeace, in my message outlining all of my questions and thoughts on what people claimed they were doing and just simply asking why this might be so. This was the message I sent them: 


“Hello Greenpeace


My name is Dawood Qureshi, I am a young 16 year old naturalist and conservationist. I have been an avid supporter of yours for many years now and I dearly believed that the planet had hope because of the amazing efforts of you as a large and properly organised organisation taking care of the environment for the simple fact that you wish to take care of the environment and nature. But recently I have been alerted to particular facts such as your supporting of seal hunting; now I know that for indigenous people this is a way of life and therefore to support themselves they must carry this out. But surely this is only excusable to them, I mean nobody else in the entire world has got a viable reason to do this, and especially not the fashion trade! I was extremely upset and saddened by what has occurred here. But I am not condemning you, because I believe that I have not heard the entire story, and I also believe that you must have some kind of reason behind your decision. I recently read this transcript that I found on Facebook and to say the least I was utterly shocked – http://fb.me/76xbPqlOW – please read this and please answer this one question I have: why? Why is this happening now? Can the organisation no longer cope or do
you just no longer care? Perhaps it is all just getting too much?. That said I still believe in you as an organisation who cares for and protects the environment and I’m just confused. So please enlighten me and just explain your view on this and what is the future for you as an organisation. Because frankly you were doing such a fantastic job before and acted as a top notch role model to many environmentalists around the globe, so please don’t let them and me down and just tell me why.


Thank you.

Dawood”

Greenpeace replied back with what I believed to be a rather short answer, but in it they addressed some of the points that had been made in my message and also provided some links to sites that expanded on their views, I personally thought the message was, albeit rather vague (although they have stated that I can get in touch with more questions), relevant and explained their approach. Here is what they wrote back:


“Hi Dawood , thanks for getting in touch.


Greenpeace is completely against the killing of seals by big businesses hunting for profit. We’ve fought for years against the commercial sealing industry in Canada and we’ll continue to oppose it. 
But this industrial slaughter is a world away from the traditional practices of Indigenous Peoples, which go back thousands of years. Many Indigenous communities in the far north rely on seals for food, warmth and their own livelihoods. We believe that these traditions and their rights must be protected.
I hope this addresses your concerns, but if not please get back to us with any other questions you might have. If you want to learn more, here’s a blog to explain our stance better: http://www.greenpeace.org/denmark/da/nyheder/blog/where-does-greenpeace-stand-on-sealing/blog/55358/

But I was still rather confused; I mean, if it was all so simple, then others far more experienced than I was must have written to Greenpeace and received the same sort of answer; so why were they still angry. Had I not seen the entire picture? Had a piece of this elaborate puzzle just not been revealed to me?. Again I needed answers, so I wrote to someone who I personally believe to be one of the best (if not the best) wildlife campaigners and speakers of this day and age, in the hope that, with his years of experience with dealing with organisations such as these and speaking out against many an organisation for the benefit of wildlife, I might gain some insight. Here’s what I wrote to him:

Hello Dominic Dyer


I have previously read certain posts and articles that stated that Greenpeace was promoting the killing and hunting of seals, I was greatly upset by this claim as I have stood loyally by Greenpeace for many years and was extremely impressed by their efforts to halt the exploitation of the arctic for oil. In light of this I sent them a message explaining my stance and questions in order to greatly understand this turn of events, here is the message I sent them: 

 – Hello Greenpeace


My name is Dawood Qureshi, I am a young 16 year old naturalist and conservationist. I have been an avid supporter of yours for
many years now and I dearly believed that the planet had hope because of the amazing efforts of you as a large and properly organised organisation taking care of the environment for the simple fact that you wish to take care of the environment and nature. But recently I have been alerted to particular facts such as your supporting of seal hunting; now I know that for indigenous people this is a way of life and therefore to support themselves they must carry this out. But surely this is only excusable to them, I mean nobody else in the entire world has got a viable reason to do this, and especially not the fashion trade! I was extremely upset and saddened by what has occurred here. But I am not condemning you, because I believe that I have not heard the entire story, and I also believe that you must have some kind of reason behind your decision. I recently read this transcript that I found on Facebook and to say the least I was utterly shocked – http://fb.me/76xbPqlOW – please read this and please answer this one question I have: why? Why is this happening now? Can the organisation no longer cope or do you just no longer care? Perhaps it is all just getting too much?. That said I still believe in you as an organisation who cares for and protects the environment and I’m just confused. So please enlighten me and just explain your view on this and what is the future for you as an organisation. Because frankly you were doing such a fantastic job before and acted as a top notch role model to many environmentalists around the globe, so please don’t let them and me down and just tell me why.


Thank you.


Dawood –


As a result of this message they then wrote back with what I considered to be a rather short but adequate (to some extent) answer, here it is: 


– Hi Dawood , thanks for getting in touch.


Greenpeace is completely against the killing of seals by big businesses hunting for profit. We’ve fought for years against the commercial sealing industry in Canada and we’ll continue to oppose it. 
But this industrial slaughter is a world away from the traditional practices of Indigenous Peoples, which go back thousands of years. Many Indigenous communities in the far north rely on seals for food, warmth and their own livelihoods. We believe that these traditions and their rights must be protected.
I hope this addresses your concerns, but if not please get back to us with any other questions you might have. If you want to learn more, here’s a blog to explain our stance better: http://www.greenpeace.org/denmark/da/nyheder/blog/where-does-greenpeace-stand-on-sealing/blog/55358/


After reading this I understood to some extent what and why they are doing what they are doing, but it seems that you are still unhappy about their stance, and I assume that, due to your campaigning for wildlife job and background, you must have received this kind of answer from them already; so in light of this I would really appreciate your opinion on their answer and what they are doing and why you think that they should be condemned for their practices. 


Thank you and all the best, 


Dawood”

Dominic Dyer was kind enough (as was Greenpeace) to provide me with an answer, which I thought to be short but to the point and made me understand to an extent what was going on, here’s what he wrote back: 


“The problem with the Greenpeace position is that it fails to address the connection between seal hunting by local communities and the production of seal clothing by these communities for sale to wider markets for commercial gain. This is not about a small number of people eating seal meat and dressing in seal pelts to survive in the Arctic that’s no longer necessary for local communities in places like Greenland & Northern Canada. What this is an opening for those that argue that seals should be seen as a valuable commodity to be exploited & killed for commercial benefit despite the cruelty & wider environmental issues concerned. It has enraged many Greenpeace supporters and is seen as another compromise too far by a large environmental NGO, that was once on the front line of wildlife protection.”

A valuable argument has been made here, one that, due to this being my attempt at a mostly unbiased post, I will leave you to think about. But again I need to represent both sides of the argument, so again I wrote to Greenpeace with Dominic’s response and also more of my questions; here is the part that I wrote (I also sent Dominic’s response above as part of this) (note: this is a response to what Greenpeace wrote to me as their first response near the top of the page) : 


“Hello Greenpeace 


Thank you for your answer, I understand now to an extent what you are doing and why, but I still don’t understand why in the link I sent you people are claiming that your Arctic director considers seal products to be sustainable for other people, surely they should only be available to the indigenous tribes?

I would also like to ask about the claims he has made that wearing deal products is ok and the fact that he blatantly wears seal products and brags about it? 

Many of the claims made in the link I sent are quite shocking and I am just asking if they are fabricated or true? 
Thank you. 


Dawood”

Thus again Greenpeace answered cordially, and I have to say that their argument must also be taken into account as this is also valuable, here is what they wrote back:


“OK I would say that there has definitely been a lack of clarity surrounding what exactly he said. He was not indicating that anyone can take part in the commercialisation of seals, but rather that only indigenous people can, in defence of their right to self-actualise and retain their cultural identity. 


There are massive skews in the argument in the link you shared. I think that there are a few kernels of truth, but then things are exaggerated and massively so. For example, this idea that indigenous people’s hunt is some sort of publicity stunt. It’s not true, it is true that industry attempted to cosy up to indigenous people. 

What is more interesting is that they were roundly rebuffed once the unsustainability of what they were doing was clear. I’m afraid I can’t spend more time on this reponse. But get back to me with more questions, by all means”

So as you can see, both sides have made their case, and both seem to be reasonable and valuable arguments (although those who know me will know what side I lean towards!), but is this crime that Greenpeace is being accused of true? Are more and more massive organisations like this being sucked into the black hole of greed? Where has the beauty of standing out and being different gone? Are naturalists being lost?, running as part of the herd, blind to the danger until it is too late?. So many questions, and yet so little answers. 

We end here on a quote from the man himself:

More people are becoming disillusioned with big NGO’s like WWF & Greenpeace the growth of social & digital media & access to smart phones is changing the face of wildlife protection. People will no longer just sign up to a direct debit & trust a big NGO to save the wildlife & planet for them. They are now forming campaign groups for marching campaigning lobbying etc & in many ways achieving more than the over sized NGOs with their corporate structures & risk averse policies aimed at keeping on the right side of governments & corporate sponsors. They are losing the confidence of the public & influence & will soon start losing income too”


– Dominic Dyer, Wildlife Protection Campaigner

But the question worth asking; is he right?.

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