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Dan Hannan: People are entitled to vote in an irrational manner

The European Parliament has just voted to ban (with a few exemptions) seal products from Canada.

South East MEP Daniel Hannan (who thinks that such decisions should be made by national parliaments) has commented on his blog:

"What is it about baby seals? Why do they excite our sympathy in a way that seagulls or scorpions or slugs do not? After all, they're hardly an endangered species: on the contrary, there are many millions of them, and they are extremely efficient hooverers up of fish. Canadian seals chomp their way through 1.5 million tons of cod every year. They have played a cameo role in the collapse of the Labrador and Newfoundland trawling industry.


[O]ur objection to Canadian seal-clubbing is aesthetic rather than ethical.


Then again, since when did emotion invalidate the democratic process? People have just as much right to object to something on irrational as on rational grounds. To take a recent example, the campaign to admit former Gurkha soldiers to Britain, in plain defiance of what they had clearly understood when they joined up, was not strictly logical. But it represented a sincere and generous national instinct and that, in a democracy, should be the trump argument.

So with the cute baby seals. Who am I to say that the voters are wrong? In a democracy, the voters are never wrong. They may be inconsistent, sentimental, mercurial; but not wrong. If I were to say: "People are being sappy about seals", I would be in the same category as those MEPs who say "People are being emotional when they vote against the European Constitution, and we who understand their true interests should therefore disregard their stated views"."

Mr Hannan has also posted a video of his speech on the subject.

Tom Greeves


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