Governor General Michaëlle Jean is being called “Canada’s Sarah Palin” by a Washington D.C. newspaper after helping butcher a seal and eating its heart raw in an Inuit ceremony in Nunavut.
But some Vancouverites – even vegetarians – support her actions, which were meant to show solidarity with the region’s struggling seal hunters.
Carl Steele, 26, a construction worker from Kitsilano, said on Tuesday that he didn’t think the seal snack was “a big deal.”
“It would be if it wasn’t (eaten for) a cultural ceremony,” he said, adding that the move shows tolerance toward minority cultures.
Patricia Sekutowska, 22, a server from Vancouver, said she’s a vegetarian and thinks eating animals is wrong.
“But every culture has their own ceremonies that other cultures may have a problem with,” she said. “It doesn’t do anything negative for Canada's image.”
The seal was caught – not clubbed – on Monday for a community feast to kick off Nunavut’s 10th anniversary celebrations.
Since then, the tiny meal has become fodder for international news media, with the story catching the attention of – among others – Turkish Weekly, BBC News and the Guardian in the United Kingdom.
A University of British Columbia global studies professor said the issue at hand here isn’t about animal rights and any suggestion of its incivility smacks of colonial bigotry.
Lawrence Berg said when Jean took part in the traditional Inuit ritual she was supporting a practice that its opponents condemn out of ignorance.
“(Jean) is supporting indigenous communities in the North when she’s doing this,” said Berg. “If she’s offered something like this it would he a slap in the face of the local community to refuse it.”
Berg said Jean is being pilloried by animal rights groups in a “re-inscription of colonial attitudes of savagery and civilization.”
The seal wasn’t clubbed or hunted for commercial use, and its meat was used to feed the community.
“This is quite a different context from the seal hunt that’s being talked about in Europe and (leading to a potential) a ban on seal products,” Berg said.
Earlier this month, the European Union voted to impose a ban on seal products after years of intense lobbying by animal rights groups.
But seal hunters in Canada’s North say the ban would devastate the region, which relies heavily on the sealing industry.