Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 546

  Briefing Note THE RIGHT NOT TO BE INDIGENOUS: SEAL UTILIZATION IN NEWFOUNDLAND Nikolas Sellheim 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 Products. 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.