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
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'