The Seal Hunt: Cultures, Economies and Legal Regimes by Nikolas Sellheim

Offor, Iyan (2020) The Seal Hunt: Cultures, Economies and Legal Regimes by Nikolas Sellheim. [Review] (

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The seal hunt has captured an inordinate amount of public attention over the last few decades compared with other prevalent means of animal exploitation. Thus, it is a wonder that a book like this new essential legal anthropological work by Sellheim has not come before. Sellheim sets out to present the ‘human dimension of the seal hunt’ (at ix). He succeeds in doing so. The first part of the book sets out the sociocultural value of seals and the legal regimes that govern them. It is here, at the book’s heart, that Sellheim’s anthropocentric narrative works best. The latter part of the book explores the European Union’s (EU) seal regime, critiquing it from multiple angles. This is fascinating, particularly where Sellheim provides insight into the EU’s travaux préparatoires. However, Sellheim’s persuasiveness here is harmed by his neglect of popular counterarguments and his light-handed approach to the rich animal welfare literature available on this topic.