May 27, 2009

Canada's governor eats raw seal heart

OTTAWA: Canada's governor general gutted a seal slaughtered for her during an official Arctic trip and ate a piece of its heart raw to show solidarity with embattled Inuit seal hunters.
Hundreds of Inuit gathered for a community feast in Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, the first stop on Governor General Michaelle Jean's trip to nine remote northern communities this week as Canada's head of state and representative of Queen Elizabeth II.
Jean knelt over the carcass of a freshly slaughtered seal and used a traditional ulu blade to cut through the flesh and slice off some meat. She then asked one of her hosts: "Could I try the heart?"
Jean said it was "absolutely delicious" and tasted "like sushi," according to images broadcast by CTV.
"And it's very rich in protein," she added.
As she wiped the blood off her fingers with a tissue, Jean explained her support for Canada's traditional Inuit seal hunt and trade, which some fear will be devastated by a European ban on seal products.
The European Parliament recently voted to endorse an EU ban on seal products in protest against commercial hunting methods.
Northern aboriginals are exempt from the ban, but they worry it will inevitably affect their livelihoods too when it takes effect in 2010.
Inuit leader Mary Simon applauded Jean for her support of the hunt.
"Once you destroy a market for one group, it is destroyed for all," Simon said in a statement.
Defense Minister Peter MacKay, who hails from Atlantic Canada, said ahead of a trip to monitor annual Arctic military exercises that he looked forward to some "delicious seal."
"I would encourage all Canadians to try some," he said.
Animal rights groups, however, were critical of Jean for appearing to also support Canada's commercial hunt.
The Canadian government maintains that the 350-year-old commercial hunt is crucial for some 6,000 North Atlantic fishermen who rely on it for up to 35 percent of their total annual income.
Animal rights groups, however, say it is barbaric and have waged an aggressive campaign in recent years to stop the annual hunt.
"I was deeply disappointed," said Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society. "I felt that (Jean's) actions were inappropriate given the controversy over commercial seal hunting.
"It's my hope that the governor general will clarify her actions and tell Canadians that her intent truly was to show solidarity with Inuit seal hunters and not with the commercial side of the industry.
"Nobody opposes subsistence hunting by Inuit people. We're opposed to the industrial-scale slaughter of seals," said Aldworth, echoed by Sheryl Fink, spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Ottawa authorized the kill of 338,000 seals this year, insisting the hunt does not threaten the species.
But a slump in pelt prices has meant fewer hunters on ice floes off Canada's Atlantic coast. Fewer than 65,000 seals were expected to be killed, generating a mere 7,5 million Canadian dollars (6.4 million US) for sealers, a fisheries spokesman told

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