Recent polar bear shootings and the upcoming seal hunt have driven the online court of public opinion into full gear, as fanatics, recluses and sensationalists fill website message boards with a perceived sage wisdom and know-it-all advice.
Commenting on the internet has evolved from something only pocket-protector wearing cyber junkies did on their Friday nights to a smorgasbord of opinions from pre-pubescent pessimists to middle-aged messengers.
The opening up of access to public debate is inherently a good thing for democracy, although it does present many downsides.
For example, after a polar bear was shot in Goose Cove last week, the Telegram's online comment board was quickly flooded with polar bear sympathizers, ranting and raving about the tragedy of shooting such a helpless, harmless, lovable, cuddly creature.
According to some commentators, this shooting will add to the declining polar bear count.
However, a study released by the Government of Nunavut last Wednesday concluded that the polar bear count is a lot higher than scientists had predicted - and could even be growing.
The study examined one of the most threatened polar bear populations, along the western Hudson Bay, and discovered that the polar bear count was 66 per cent higher than they had previously thought, with an estimated total of 1,013 bears - 403 more than predicted.
In a the article "Polar bear's actions in Goose Cove not outside the norm: Blake" in today's paper, a wildlife official said that the Davis Strait polar bear population is abundant and healthy due to a large amount of harp seals to eat. In 2007-2008 the total count of bears stood at 2,200.
But when it was discovered that a bear had been shot in Goose Cove after savagely maiming, gutting and mutilating four helpless animals, while presenting an immediate threat to residents after breaking into houses and smashing windows, people were quick to label the actions taken by officials as backwards and incomprehensible, as well as recklessly putting in danger a threatened species.
Not only did commentators ignore the fact that officials could not tranquilize the bear because of weather conditions preventing a helicopter from landing, they went so far as to say the poor bear was probably just hungry and looking for food.
Obviously they didn't see the bloody aftermath, with no meat eaten from the dead animals, nor did they realize the bear would have been full after eating a buffet of seals (yes, that other, helpless, lovable creature that people are obsessed with).
Nor did they take into account the safety of the schoolchildren and residents that could have been seriously injured or, God forbid, killed by the beast.
Sealing stories continue to bear the brunt of 'professional' opinion.
Activists from across Canada, to California to Europe, who pretend to know the real impacts of sealing - economically, socially, culturally and ecologically - are quick to write off the long-lived hunt as savage and inhumane.
They say that the seal population is also in decline and that the hunt continues to threaten the species.
What they fail to mention is that there are close to 10 million harp seals that are decimating the fish stock, and an extremely small amount of seal hunters, who practice humane and scientifically-justified sustainable methods, out trying to put food on their family's table.
MHA and opposition fisheries critic Jim Bennett stated in a recent news release that "seals eat 50 times what we land here in the province and 15 times what the entire country lands."
As soon as a story is posted online about the seal hunt, comments fly in about how backwards and brutish these people are and that seals should be left alone. It doesn't matter if hunters and fishermen starve or have a cultural tradition taken away. The seal trumps all.
The ignorant and arrogant seal worshippers that send in offensive comments that don't take into account economic, cultural, social or historic realities diminish the arguments of rational environmentalists.
Between polar bears and seals, commentators have had a heyday bashing the people of the Northern Peninsula.
Here's a suggestion.
Why don't you get out from behind your computer in your safe little office, make the long journey up to the Straits or Port au Choix or St. Anthony, drive around until you find a polar bear (don't worry, there are plenty out this time of year), get out of your car, walk up to the bear and stand in front of the 'cute and cuddly' beast. Let us know how that goes.
Here is another suggestion.
While you are here, take up the occupation as a fisherman and head out to the waters. Notice that the fish stocks are dwindling. Take a look around at the clothing worn and food eaten. Notice that every part of a seal is used - for clothing, food and oil.
Now study the economy and history a bit and notice how much of an impact these activities have on this region and how many people depend on them for survival. Also take into account the scientific, evidence-based studies that conclude the hunt is sustainable and that populations are growing for both polar bears and seals.
Then post your comments.
Ian Murdoch writes for the Northern Pen, the Transcontinental community newspaper serving St. Anthony and the Northern Peninsula.