photo by Brian 96 (Flickr CC)

At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada, scientists and philosophers have argued for affording whales and dolphins the same ethical considerations as humans.

Now, you may ask, how good are human rights anyway? Not that great in many places of the world. But, never mind that right now, this is a question of ideology, to be enshrined in law. We’ll worry about who actually follows that law later.


The idea is that, under domestic and international law, the Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans would guarantee rights for dolphins and whales as ‘non human persons’.

From BBC News:

We went from seeing the dolphin/whale brain as being a giant amorphous blob that doesn’t carry a lot of intelligence and complexity to not only being an enormous brain but an enormous brain with an enormous amount of complexity, and a complexity that rivals our own.

­–Dr Lori Marino, Psychologist, Emory University, Atlanta, USA

I can imagine that certain interests in Japan and the Faroe Islands would not welcome such a declaration of rights. Nor would aquatic animal parks, which hold cetaceans in cramped, torturous conditions. But the evidence is clear: these are social, intelligent and caring animals with a culture of their own.

Dolphins and orcas, in particular, have exhibited some of the most impressive evidence of complex thought. Wild orcas help fishermen in return for a share of the catch and have been observed feeding an injured member of their group for a year. Captive dolphins can lie as well as tell researchers that they don’t know something.

Read more on this story in the Independent and on BBC News.

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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