A restaurant on Vancouver's famed Granville Island is serving up a side of controversy with its three-course menu for this year’s Dine Out Vancouver Festival.

Edible Canada is including Newfoundland seal as an option for diners for two weeks beginning on January 20.

“I just don’t think I would eat seal to be honest,” said Maria Acosta as she walked past the restaurant. “That’s the first thing that came to my mind, the hunting of the seals.”

The East Coast seal hunt has long been controversial in Canada with animal rights activists calling it cruel and inhumane while hunters say it is not only traditional but necessary to protect fish stocks.

For Eric Pateman, president at Edible Canada and the man who came up with the seal dish, serving the marine mammal provides an opportunity to showcase an ingredient not a lot of people outside of Atlantic Canada have tried.

“Edible Canada is known as the place to try the best ingredients from coast to coast and this product is historically relevant,” said Pateman. “Especially with Canada’s 150th birthday being this year.”

But Pateman also knows you can’t simply add an ingredient like seal to a Vancouver menu without inviting all kinds of controversy.

“We really don’t need to kill more animals just to satisfy the appetite of trendy foodies who are looking for another novelty food,” said Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society in response to the restaurant’s claim that seal is sustainably-harvested seafood.

eric pateman seal meat

“It may be a sustainable food but it’s certainly not a humane food,” added Fricker. “The East Coast seal hunt is known around the world as an example of extreme animal cruelty.”

The dish Pateman came up with is seal in a ragu sauce over pappardelle pasta. It will be available as the main course with a $3 surcharge on a $30 set menu.

“I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there around the seal hunt and there’s also a great opportunity to educate people as well,” said Pateman. “I pride myself on understanding where my proteins and my meats come from whether it be beef, lamb, pork or anything else and I don’t think seal’s any different.”

Seal Hunt generic

Outside the restaurant, opinion was mixed with some diners saying they would avoid the dish.

“It’s all meat but I guess some things are more iffy because you’re not supposed to hunt seals in lots of places,” said Audrey Popa.

Other more adventurous eaters said they would probably order it.

“I’m not like a huge activist so I’d probably give it a shot,” said Siobhin Carrick.

Either way, the controversy is drumming up a lot of attention for the restaurant.