TORONTO — The Canadian Parliament's restaurant will serve seal meat this week in support of hunters battling a European Union ban on seal products, a Liberal senator said Monday.
Celine Hervieux-Payette said Wednesday's seal meat lunch menu will allow politicians to demonstrate their backing for the annual hunt.
"All political parties will have the opportunity to demonstrate to the international community the solidarity of the Canadian Parliament behind those who earn a living from the seal hunt," she said in a statement.
The EU ban on seal imports was imposed last July on the grounds that Canada's annual hunt was inhumane.
The East Coast seal hunt, the largest in the world, kills an average of 275,000 harp seals during mid-November to mid-May. The seals are either shot or hit over the head with a spiked club called a hakapik.
Animal rights groups believe the hunt is cruel, poorly monitored and provides little economic benefit. Seal hunters and Canadian authorities say it is sustainable, humane and provides income for isolated communities.
The EU ban includes processed goods derived from seals, including their skins – which are used to make coats, bags and clothing – as well as meat, oil blubber, organs and seal oil, which is used in some omega-3 pills.
It exempts products derived from traditional hunts carried out by Inuit in Canada's Arctic, as well as those from Greenland, Alaska and Russia.
Canada has requested consultations with the EU at the World Trade Organization, which is the first step before launching an official trade challenge to salvage a Canadian industry valued at $10 million Canadian dollars ($9.7 million) in exports last year.