THE RIGHT NOT
UTILIZATION IN NEWFOUNDLAND
The discussion surrounding the commercial seal hunt has for many decades revolved around the well-being of
individual seals and claims of cruelty have long been the centrepiece of opposition towards the hunt. This opposition
stands in contrast to the acceptance of Inuit or indigenous seal hunts irrespective of the numbers of seals hunted and
animal welfare considerations. This is based on the high cultural and utilitarian value a seal represents in Inuit
society and culture and this narrative has equally found its way into political processes and legislation, such as the
recent ban on trade in seal products on the European internal market, Regulation 1007/2009 on Trade in Seal
This Briefing Note claims that the utilization of seal stemming from commercial hunts in Newfoundland, where
the largest commercial seal hunt is conducted, goes beyond the notion of commercialisation and represents a cultural,
utilitarian and identity-giving means while being an important element in the social cohesion of the island’s coastal
communities. It claims that the discourse on seals and sealing is biased as it does not consider cultural and social
elements of the hunt and the industry. Results stem from fieldwork conducted in April, May and November 2013
in the communities of Woodstock, Blaketown and South Dildo, Newfoundland.
Seal Utilization in EU Political Discourse
The preparatory works leading to the adoption of the EU seal products trade ban have been well
documented and shall not be reproduced here (see De Ville 2012; Sellheim 2013a; Wegge 2013).
The underlying motivation for the European legislative to adopt a ban on trade in seal products
was to reduce the suffering of seals by decreasing demand for seal products through blocking the
EU’s market for products stemming from commercially hunted seals. While the Commission
Proposal from 2008 still saw a potential opening of the market for products from hunts in which
Nikolas Sellheim is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Law Legal Cultures in Transnational World
(LeCTra) Doctoral Programme, University of Lapland.