Canada will continue to import cat and dog fur despite a ban adopted by the United States and the UK, to avoid undermining support for the country's seal hunt.

An internal government document obtained by a Canadian news agency under the Access to Information Act - now widely disseminated by Canadian media - says government officials urged Gerry Ritz, the agriculture minister, not to instigate a ban.

"An import ban on cat and dog fur, if it were to be considered, could... undermine Canada's position against the implementation of foreign import bans on Canadian seal products," the memorandum said.

This summer, the European Union voted to ban seal products from Canada, upsetting Canada's Conservative government, which plans to contest this at the World Trade Organization.

A private members bill to ban cat and dog fur products has now been proposed by Canadian Liberal MP Anita Neville. "This is a deplorable practice and must be stopped," she said.

By Monica Dobie.