Page last updated at 20:49 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 21:49 UK

Canada's governor eats seal heart

Michaelle Jean
Ms Jean said the raw seal heart was delicious

Canada's governor general, Michaelle Jean, has helped to butcher and eat a seal in an apparent act of solidarity with hunters.

Ms Jean used a traditional Inuit knife to help gut the animal then ate a slice of raw heart.

It came weeks after the EU voted to ban Canadian seal products, but Ms Jean did not say if her actions were in response to the EU proposals.

An EU spokeswoman said the story was "too bizarre to acknowledge".

The governor general is the representative of Canada's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II.

Ms Jean was touring northern Canadian communities and was at a festival at Rankin Inlet on Monday attended by hundreds of Inuit when she ate the seal heart.

Asked later if her actions were a message to the EU, she said: "Take from it what you will."

Hunting is 'crucial'

The European Parliament recently voted in favour of the ban on Canadian seal products in protest against commercial seal hunting methods.

Inuit people are exempt from the ban, but many fear that it will inevitably have a negative effect on their livelihoods as well.

The authorities say the hunt is crucial for about 6,000 North Atlantic fishermen who rely on it for much of their income.

The government has authorised the killing of more than 300,000 seals this year.

But fisheries officials say only about 65,000 seals will be killed as a fall in the price of seal pelts means there are fewer hunters this season.

Animal welfare groups have long argued that the clubbing of seal pups by hunters is barbaric.

The EU's proposed ban still requires the agreement of EU ministers to take effect.

But correspondents say it is likely to be imposed before the 2010 hunting season starts.

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