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Should dolphins and whales have 'human' rights?

Categories: Science & Technology

Dolphins and whales deserve legal protection as non-human "persons" under the law, said scientists meeting in Vancouver over the weekend.

A Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans would mean that Lily, a bottlenose dolphin currently in an exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium, would be set free.  A Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans would mean that Lily, a bottlenose dolphin currently in an exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium, would be set free. (David Goldman/Associated Press)Researchers working in various fields such as animal behaviour, ethics and conservation told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held over the weekend, they want support for the Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans.

They said dolphins and whales are intelligent, self-aware creatures that should enjoy the same ethical considerations as humans.

That would mean the end of whaling, and of dolphin and whale exhibits in aquariums and zoos. The creatures would also no longer be used in entertainment.

Lori Marino of Emory University in Atlanta said dolphins can understand numbers and abstract concepts, have a concept of "self" and can recognize themselves in a mirror. She also said dolphins and whales have what we would consider cultural practices, such as mourning the dead.

The researchers urged the adoption of the Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans, drafted in Helsinki in 2010, which states in part, "We affirm that all cetaceans [marine mammals including dolphins, whales and porpoises] as persons have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing."

Should dolphins and whales have rights as non-human persons? Let us know what you think.



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