Seal hunting is outlawed in all but a handful of countries. The United States banned seal hunts in the 1970s, and only four nations continue to allow the practice. Canada is among them—and in Montreal, as Micheline Maynard with the New York Times reports
, seal meat is increasingly in vogue. She writes about a seared seal loin at Au Cinquième Péché, and another at Les Îles en Ville, as well as seal sausage, smoked seal, and seal pate, all winning diners over with their dense, gamey meat and unquestionable notoriety.
But many other nations have outlawed the production or even import of seal products. Canada is one of the rare locations where seal can still be eaten legally, due in large part to the protection of its role in the Inuit diet—although, of course, the restaurants now serving seal on the menu are a world away from the Inuit settlements of Northern Canada. Within the last two months, the European Parliament decided to ban any imports of seal, and many high-profile public figures have spoken out against its hunt.
That said, the seal is not considered an endangered species in Canada, and their numbers have more than tripled (now estimated at nearly six million) since the 1970s. Even so, their hunt is strictly regulated in Canada, with only two legal hunting periods each year—hardly a widespread slaughter, or one that threatens the survival of the species.
So to eat seal, or not to eat seal? In researching the Times article, Maynard herself writes separately
about her own ethical qualms in trying the dish. “In order to write about seal on Montreal restaurant menus,” she wrote, “I would have to try it. And I had misgivings.”
What do you think? Should seal still be on the menu?
Photo from the New York Times