The Seal Hunt Lobby's "Opinion Poll":the Not So Fine Art of Asking Questions to Get the Answers you Want
Suppose someone asked you if you were to support, say, anti-smoking laws if there were no factual evidence that smoking was harmful? I guess I'd have to say no. Like most people I suspect, I don't like to think of myself as indifferent to facts or unconcerned that the exercise of public authority be justified. Still if I were asked whether, on the other hand, an Islamic country could ban alcoholic beverages without factual evidence I would have to hesitate. Just what kind of evidence? I suppose evidence that the ban is based on genuine religious beliefs and a legal system that accepts the enforcement of religious interdictions by governmental authority.
Not surprisingly, the pro-seal hunt lobby was able to find a pollster who could concoct European opposition to the EU seal ban, by asking random members of the public whether they would support a public morals based ban, if there were no independently verifiable factual evidence to support it. http://bit.ly/1lw8V3T Were these folks provided with the findings of the panel about negative animal welfare outcomes from sealing, based on extensive scientific evidence? Or the factual findings that there was no way to ensure these negative outcomes did not occur, given the conditions of the Canadian commercial hunt. I very much doubt it.
The pollster managed even to scrap up a majority of Europeans who said that they would not be opposed to hunting seals in all circumstances. Unwittingly, this result actually lends support to the EU's claim that its ban with limited exceptions for non-indigenous and marine management hunts, may actually reflect well the opinions of EU nationals.
The polled individuals were also asked whether upholding the EU ban on public morals grounds would set a "dangerous precedent" for other areas. This is of course what we call a leading question. I'm sure many people would not like to regard themselves as dismissing out of hand the risk of a "dangerous precedent", and not having much expert knowledge about how WTO jurisprudence functions, and the role of stare decisis in the WTO system, they would simply play it safe and say, yes, a "dangerous precedent" could be set, this having been put into their minds by the pollster. And sure enough a large number answered yes!