CANADA'S governor general gutted a seal slaughtered for her during an official Arctic trip, cut out its heart and ate it to show solidarity with Inuit seal hunters, local media reports.
Hundreds of Inuit had 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 reportedly knelt above the carcass of a freshly slaughtered seal and used a traditional ulu blade to slice meat off the skin. She then asked one of her hosts: ``Could I try the heart?''
According to broadcaster CTV, Jean said it was "absolutely delicious" and tasted "like sushi."
As she wiped her blood-soaked fingers with a tissue, she explained her support for Canada's traditional seal hunt and trade, which locals 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, although it will only take effect in 2010.
The Canadian government maintains that the traditional hunt is crucial for some 6000 North Atlantic fishermen who rely on it for up to 35 per cent of their total annual income.
Northern Canadian aboriginals are exempt from the ban, but they worry it inevitably affect their livelihoods too. "Once you destroy a market for one group, it is destroyed for all," explained Inuit leader Mary Simon.
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 $8.5 million for sealers, a fisheries spokesman said.
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