Queen’s rep eats raw seal heart
‘It’s like sushi,’ says governor-general Michaelle Jean, in an act of solidarity with the Inuit people
A mixture of praise from the Inuit people and outrage from Europeans has greeted the gutsy Canadian governor-general's decision, during a visit to an Inuit community in the Arctic this week, to cut out the heart of a slaughtered seal and eat it raw.
Michaelle Jean, who has been the Queen's representative in Canada since 2005, was making a gesture of solidarity with the Inuit people who claim their way of life is threatened by an upcoming EU ban on the import of seal products.
When her hosts in the Nunavut community of Rankin Inlet laid two freshly killed dead seals in front of her, she took a traditional ulu blade, sliced through the flesh and, pulling back the skin, asked one of the Inuit women: "Could I try the heart?"
A piece was cut out and Jean popped it in her mouth. "It's like sushi," she said, wiping the blood from her mouth and fingers with a tissue. "And it's very rich in protein."
Jean, 51, a Haitian who fled to Canada in 1968 to escape the Papa Doc regime, said the EU ban, due to come into effect in six months' time, would affect the hundreds of people who saw seals as their daily sustenance as well as relying on the income derived from by-products.
Her action has brought condemnation from animal rights groups - and, inevitably, drawn comparisons with that other icy frontierswoman, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska (though the gossip blog Gawker reckons Jean is the more "badass" of the two).
But the Inuit people are delighted at her gesture. Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's national Inuit organisation, said: "Hunting and eating a seal is not a political act, nor is it 'bizarre' or 'disgusting' as the anti-sealing lobby have commented."
And in a letter that illustrates the culture gap between the Inuits and Europeans, a local man, Aaju Peter, wrote in an email to the Canwest news service: "Both she and the Inuit are showing great respect for the animal and great respect for each other in the sharing and accepting of this seal that has offered itself to the hunter." ·
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