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February 26, 2013

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Dolphins and Whales should be recognized as non-human persons with their own bill of rights scientist decide

The 10 Rights for Dolphins as ‘Non-Human Persons’ (Petition)

Last week (February 2013), in Vancouver, Canada at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the group, which was led by Dr. Thomas White, was canvassing for support of their “Declaration of Cetacean Rights.” The coalition of scientists, animal-rights activists, and philosophers came to a total agreement, that is that dolphins, second only to humans in terms of mammalian intelligence, should be considered “non-human persons” and granted due protection under law.

According to Dr. White, an ethics expert at Loyola Marymount University, “The similarities between cetaceans and humans are such that they, as we, have an individual sense of self. Dolphins are non human persons. A person needs to be an individual. If individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being. The science has shown that individuality, consciousness, self-awareness is no longer a unique human property. That poses all kinds of challenges.”

It has been proven through dolphin research that they are more intelligent than chimpanzees. Dolphins can recognize their reflections in a mirror and can even think about the future. Two years ago, these same scientists had originally proposed the ten Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans at a conference in Helsinki, Finland. The dolphins have distinctive cultures, societies and personalities that are so complex that they should be considered in the same light as people according to the scientists.

These marine experts now hope to persuade international authorities to enshrine in law the rights of cetaceans, a group of water-dwelling mammals including porpoises. They state that isolating dolphins and orcas in tanks at amusement parks is morally wrong because the animals are even more socially driven than humans. Killing them should be considered tantamount to murder as in the deliberate killing of a human being.

Recognizing the status of cetaceans in law is important because it would make commercial whaling and imprecise fishing methods which kill hundreds of thousands of dolphins and whales each year morally abhorrent according to Dr. White.

dolphin whale cetacean rights

Recent scientific studies on dolphins' brains have also shown that they communicate with each other in a similar way to humans and that they can reason. "We went from seeing the dolphin or whale brain as being giant amorphous blob that doesn’t carry a lot of intelligence and complexity to being an enormous brain with a complexity that rivals our own. It's different in the way its put together, but in terms of the level of complexity it is very similar to the human brain," said Dr Lori Marino, of Emory University in Atlanta, one of the architects of the declaration.

dolphin whale cetacean rights

An experiment at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi in which dolphins were rewarded for clearing rubbish from their enclosures highlighted their remarkable intellectual capabilities. One dolphin named Kelly began hiding large paper bags at the bottom of her tank, ripping them apart and bringing them to her handler one at a time to trick him into giving her multiple rewards.

The group of researchers are now canvassing support from other scientists in the hope of bringing it to the attention of policymakers. The ten-point document says each individual cetacean has the right to life, to a free existence in their natural habitat and to the protection of their environment. It adds that no person or organisation has the right to own a cetacean, or to disrupt their culture. Cetaceans are entitled to have these rights set down in an internationally recognised legal document, it concludes.

whale dolphin cetacean rights

Please take a minute to sign the petition (copy/paste URL into your browser):
Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins

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