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.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map