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Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and their cabinet colleagues Chuck Strahl, Diane Finley and Jim Prentice eat seal meat on Aug. 18, 2009, while Peter MacKay, Vic Toews and Lisa Raitt look on.

Jason Ransom/Prime Minister's Office

There was no blood, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper and some of his ministers ate seal in Nunavut.

At least they say they did. No reporters or independent photographers were allowed to witness the event. But the Prime Minister's Office released a photo of Mr. Harper and his smiling cabinet colleagues dipping seal bits like crudités.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley held the plate, while Mr. Harper, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl dived in.

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Unable to witness the event first-hand, travelling media were left to digest the photo and e-mails from the Prime Minister's staff.

"I can confirm that the Prime Minister and members of cabinet did have seal meat at lunch. The Prime Minister said, 'I really enjoyed eating seal meat and look forward to having it again,' " read one e-mail from spokesman Andrew MacDougall. "The Prime Minister wants members of the press to have a chance to experience seal before they leave."

The photo op is unlikely to generate the kind of international storm created in May by Governor-General Michaëlle Jean's seal-eating ways. Ms. Jean simultaneously became a local hero in Nunavut and a subject of ridicule for Europeans and environmentalists when she carved a fresh seal and ate part of its bloody heart in front of the media.

"The government's support for our sealing industry is well known," Mr. Harper said before he snacked on the meat. "The standards of this industry, quite frankly, are better than many other industries that deal with animal products. There is no reason [why]the seal industry should be singled out for discriminatory treatment by Europeans or any other nation."

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