News / Vancouver

Vancouver restaurant dines out on seal meat controversy

Edible Canada's decision to serve seal meat during the Dine Out Vancouver Festival has sparked interest as well as protests

Seal meat being prepared at Edible Canada.

Contributed/Edible Canada

Seal meat being prepared at Edible Canada.

The owner of a Vancouver restaurant says reservations are up following his decision to put seal on the menu during the city’s annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival.

“We’ve had a whack-load of reservations and we’ve had some people who’ve come in this week early just to find out more about it and coming in to support us,” said Eric Pateman, the owner and chef of Edible Canada on Granville Island.

Serving seal hasn’t come without controversy. The Newfoundland seal hunt, which is mostly done to harvest pelts, has long been a target for animal rights groups. The restaurant received threats earlier this week, and on Jan. 20, hours before Edible Canada was due to start serving up the seal dishes, three protesters from the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals held a demonstration in front of Edible Canada to protest what they called the “inherently cruel” hunt.

Emily Lavendar of PETA adds pretend blood to a protest tableau in front of Edible Canada, a Vancouver restaurant that will serve seal meat as part of a fine dining festival.

Jen St. Denis

Emily Lavendar of PETA adds pretend blood to a protest tableau in front of Edible Canada, a Vancouver restaurant that will serve seal meat as part of a fine dining festival.

Pateman’s restaurant specializes in serving local, sustainable food, and he said he wanted to give people in Vancouver a chance to try seal meat as an important and historic part of Canadian cuisine. Because the hunt is closely monitored and regulated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, it’s one of the few wild game products that can be served in a restaurant.

“You can’t go hunt a moose or a bear and serve it in a restaurant,” Pateman said, adding that Newfoundland is the only province that allows wild game to be sold on grocery shelves or served in restaurants.

Since the primary goal of the hunt is for the animals’ pelts, around 80 per cent of meat is often left to rot on the ice because there is no market for it.

Pateman has created two dishes for people to try as part of Dine Out Vancouver: a dish with papardelle pasta and bolognaise sauce, and an appetizer that features a piece of seal loin cooked medium rare “so people can truly taste the dish itself and the flavour of the meat.”

Left, a pasta dish with seal meat; right, Edible Canada chef Eric Pateman prepares seal meat.

Contributed/Edible Canada

Left, a pasta dish with seal meat; right, Edible Canada chef Eric Pateman prepares seal meat.

Edible Canada’s Dine Out menu also includes rabbit from Quebec, lamb heart from Alberta, elk and bison tartare, and rockfish and mussel stew sourced from Haida Gwaii.

Pateman said it’s unlikely that seal would go on his restaurant’s menu permanently because there’s currently not enough supply of the meat. To offer the seal loin dish to Dine Out customers, “we’ve basically bought every loin that’s available in Canada right now."

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