Animals as Commodities: The Case of the Pacific Fur Seal

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Animal commodities have been central to human existence for millennia. As well as supplying human dietary needs in the form of meat, milk and eggs, they have been used for clothing, ornamentation, dyeing, medicine, fertiliser, and fuel, and as domestic companions. Animal power has also been harnessed to harvest, transport and process other major global commodities, from silver to teak. This chapter provides an overview of the debates concerning the commodification of animals and explores their changing role within global trade. I outline shifting historiographical approaches to global animal commodities and emphasise the ecological and ethical issues posed by the commodification of animals. I then present a case study of the Pacific fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus), hunted to the point of extinction in the nineteenth century for its thick fur coat.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Commodity History
EditorsJonathan Curry-Machado, Jean Stubbs, William Gervase Clarence-Smith, Jelmer Vos
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780197502693
ISBN (Print)9780197502679
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2024


  • Pacific fur seal, animals, commodities

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