Darling draws the line at seal meat for his G7 dinner
Chairs are upholstered with seal skin, goodie bags have seal-skin mittens. But finance ministers meeting in Canada don't want to upset hosts
In his role as Chancellor, Alistair Darling has become used to eating local delicacies laid on by his hosts at international summits. But at the G7 finance ministers' meeting in northern Canada last night, he drew the line at tucking into a traditional Inuit supper of seal meat.
The nature-loving Chancellor was forced to make a decision between risking upsetting the local Inuit community, whose culture has seal- hunting at its heart, and outraging animal rights activists.
Mr Darling chose the former – and ate the more politically correct dish of Arctic char, which is a type of fish. Musk ox and caribou were also on the menu.
The Canadian government's summit in Iqaluit, the capital of the northern territory of Nunavut on Baffin Island, is treacherous ground for the visiting ministers. The waitresses at the dinner, at a local Inuit school, wore seal-skin hairpins. At earlier talks at the Nunavut parliament building, the delegates sat on chairs upholstered in sealskin. Each was offered a "goodie bag" of seal-skin vests and mittens.
Speaking before the supper, a spokeswoman for Mr Darling said: "He's not going to eat the seal. I'm sure he'd rather [the chairs] were upholstered in something else." Mr Darling was expected to shun the goodie bag. It is not the first time the menu at an international summit has caused problems for British sensibilities. Sarah Brown divided opinion last July when she sent back a dish of veal on two occasions at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy.
But local politicians were unabashed at showing the G7 ministers – including four from the EU, where seal products are banned – that the Inuit culture thrives on sealing. Nunavut premier Eva Aariak told Toronto's Globe and Mail last week: "The issue and topic of sealing will be very evident. We hope that [the visit] will be the event of a lifetime for a lot of the delegates, knowing that they have never been this far north in their lives, and experiencing first-hand what Inuit are all about."
There is still local anger at the 2006 protest by Paul McCartney and his then wife Heather Mills against seal-hunting on Canada's east coast. Federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuit MP for Nunavut, referring to animal rights protests, told the newspaper: "It's an opportunity to educate the international community. They're protesting because some rock star laid on the ice with a seal.... I'm frankly sick and tired of being a target of international organisations."
Inuit leader Mary Simon has previously complained that the anti-seal campaign, including the EU ban, is an insult to her culture, insisting: "It is doubtful that a wild seal living in the Arctic would envy the life prospects of a factory-raised chicken."
But a spokeswoman for animal rights group Peta said: "The campaign is against the commercial slaughter [of] thousands of baby seals bludgeoned or skinned alive each year. The government and the corporate fishers behind the eastern seal slaughter are using the Inuit people as a cover for their cruel and irresponsible behaviour.... Peta applauds Alistair Darling for his refusal to eat the seal meat the Canadian government is foisting on its visitors."
The ministers are to debate reforms to banking, including President Barack Obama's proposals to tax banks. The summit's host, Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty, took his guests dog-sledding on Friday night shortly after their arrival in the city. February temperatures are typically minus 18C in Iqaluit and the landscape is permafrost, meaning buildings are erected on stilts.
Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way
Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down
The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
- 1 Salisbury ranked seventh-best city in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015
- 2 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 3 Banksy has not been arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 5 Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Chicago voter tells Obama 'don't touch my girlfriend' – Obama stays super smooth
Oscar Pistorius: The brutal prison life that awaits disgraced athlete
Banksy has not been arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
Raphael Ravenscroft dead: 'Baker Street' musician who played the most famous saxophone solo for just £27, dies aged 60
Darren Vann: Indiana man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear more
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...
£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...
£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...
£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...