“Seals are cute!” – A legal tale of emotion and morality

Lead Author Nikolas, Sellheim
Institution Contact University of Lapland, Faculty of Law PO Box 122 96101 Rovaniemi Finland
Theme Theme 2: Vulnerability of Arctic Societies
Session Name 2.1 The role of law and institutions in Arctic transformation process
Datetime Wed, Sep 14, 2016 03:00 PM - 03:20 PM
Presentation Type Oral
Abstract text Ever since the adoption of the EU seal regime in 2009, the seal trade has experienced increasing drawbacks due to an adverse global trade environment. While animal welfare stood at the fore of the early phases of the adoption process, this paper shows that the role emotion plays in the legislative process trumps the moral claims of animal welfare. This is caused by the significant differences between the characters of animal welfare laws in the EU and the expressive function of the EU seal regime.

Drawing from hermeneutic legal analysis and empirical case studies, the paper furthermore untangles the differences between a law based on a moral standard such as animal welfare and a law based on emotional opposition that is not rooted in morality. With the legislative process of the EU seal regime serving as the legal-political backdrop, the paper allows for a broader discussion on the role of ‘charismatic megafauna’ such as whales and seals in the legal developments in and for the Arctic. The moral and emotion landscapes in a seal hunting community vis-à-vis EU policy-makers enable for conclusions on the degree to which moral relativism causes hardships for Arctic governance. The paper thus includes proposals to overcome moral and emotional barriers and serves as a forum for discussion in a highly emotional discursive environment on the marine mammal hunt.
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