The polar bear, the iconic creature of the Arctic, has become the poster animal for two issues: climate change and animal rights. Both garner tremendous amounts of publicity.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is being petitioned to list the polar bear as “threatened,” ostensibly because of climate change, by animal-rights groups, including Greenpeace, without consulting Inuit. History repeats itself.
Inuit have taken action. The national Inuit organization (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami) and the International organization (Inuit Circumpolar Council — Canada) have written a joint letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stating our opposition to this move. Let me quote briefly from the letter:
“It is clear to both ITK and ICC Canada that the intention of the petitioners to this proposed rule is to use the U.S. Endangered Species Act to heighten public attention and apply pressure upon the U.S. government to address its domestic greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. We view [this] as misguided and short-sighted … It is our concern that elevating the listing of the polar bear to ‘threatened’ will impose arbitrary and scientifically unfounded penalties and hardships upon Inuit. These penalties and hardships would have negative impacts on our rights and interests and would undermine our current successful measures and ongoing activities in the sustainable use and conservation of the species.”
Furthermore, we state clearly that we view the actions of the petitioners (Greenpeace, the Centre for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council) as being for purely political and fundraising purposes. We have pointed out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services that the petitioners in no way speak on behalf of the rights and interests of Inuit.
Mary Simon, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.