Whales and dolphins 'should have legal rights'

100th Monkey

New member
This is the way to systematically take our rights away, and put animals and nature ahead of humans.

Campaign for intelligent marine mammals to have right to life, which would protect them from hunters and captivity.

Campaigners who believe that dolphins and whales should be granted rights on account of their intelligence are to push for the animals to be protected under international law.

A group of scientists and ethicists argues there is sufficient evidence of the marine mammals' intelligence, self-awareness and complex behaviour to enshrine their rights in legislation.

Under the declaration of rights for cetaceans, a term that includes dolphins, whales and porpoises, the animals would be protected as "non-human persons" and have a legally enforceable right to life.

If incorporated into law, the declaration would bring legal force to bear on whale hunters, and marine parks, aquariums and other entertainment venues would be barred from keeping dolphins, whales or porpoises in captivity.

"We're saying the science has shown that individuality, consciousness and self-awareness are no longer unique human properties. That poses all kinds of challenges," said Tom White, director of the Centre for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

"Dolphins are non-human persons. A person needs to be an individual. And if individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being. The captivity of beings of this sort, particularly in conditions that would not allow for a decent life, is ethically unacceptable, and commercial whaling is ethically unacceptable," White said.

The group spoke at the annual meeting in Vancouver of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to raise support for the declaration among scientists and the visiting public. The 10-point declaration sets out a framework to protect cetaceans' "life, liberty and wellbeing", including rights to freedom of movement and residence in their natural environment, and protection against "disruption of their cultures".

"The next step is taking the science and advocating for law in different places, from a regional point of view, from a national point of view, and eventually from a multinational and international view," said Chris Butler-Stroud of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

Decades of research on cetaceans, and dolphins in particular, has revealed that their brains, while markedly different from humans, are large, complex and capable of sophisticated behaviour. Observations of dolphins have shown that they can recognise themselves, use tools and understand symbols and abstract concepts.

In 2001, Lori Marino of Emory University in Atlanta, who is promoting the declaration, tested whether dolphins recognised themselves by drawing temporary marks on different parts of their bodies and watching them check the mark by swimming up to an immersed mirror. "When we did that with two dolphins they passed with flying colours," she said.

Orcas off Patagonia displayed a seemingly extraordinary act when an aged member of the group suffered jaw damage and could no longer eat properly. The whale's companions kept the animal alive by feeding it. "The animal, we would say, was past its sell-by date, an older creature. They must have conceptualised that if it wasn't fed, something would have happened to it, and they were able to work out what was needed to keep it alive," said Butler-Stroud.

At the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, a dolphin named Kelly outwitted its human keepers and passed on some of its tricks to its offspring. Dolphins at the centre were rewarded with fish if they collected litter from their tanks and carried it in their mouths to the staff but Kelly found a weakness in the scheme. When people dropped paper into her tank, she hid it under a rock on the bottom. When a keeper next approached, she swam down and tore a small piece off, and returned to the surface to claim her reward. She worked out that a small piece of paper earned the same reward as a big piece, and so maximised her meals.

Then one day, Kelly managed to grab a gull that flew into the tank. When she delivered it to her keepers, she got an especially large fish reward. The next time Kelly was fed she hid the fish at the bottom of the pool, and later brought it to the surface to lure more gulls into the pool. The strategy proved so successful that she taught her offspring, who went on to teach others.

Though much of the declaration is intended to bring pressure on whaling nations and venues that keep cetaceans in captivity, the document has major implications for conservation programmes and environmental assessments that impinge on communities of dolphins, whales and other cetaceans.

As an early step, the special rights for cetaceans are being considered by the UN as part of its convention on migratory species, which aims to protect migrating species over their entire ranges.

Enshrining the rights in law could be some time, though. "If we are lucky it could take 10 years," said White. "We are at the stage of climate scientists 20 years ago. This is the first step."



New member
Of course animals are intelligent. That shouldnt' even have to be stated for F sakes. But where do the rights end for animals. i agree that wild animals shouldn't be kept in captivity. domesticated animals have grown dependent upon humans for survival and some even like it. but if this full-on animal rights thing continues the way it's going based on this, then pretty soon, we won't be able to eat meat, and then what's next, plants have the same rights too? Will our pets gain access to bank accounts and credit cards and own their own property? Yes, animals deserve the right to live and be free as do we all. Humans are also in captivity most just don't know it. We deserve rights to be free too, but of course, the animals will be granted that first if we don't do something about it now.

White Rabbit

New member
Wow that's a great comment Sungazer! You hit the nail right on the head. I would hope that people will stand up for their rights before they allow this to happen.


New member
Yes, people need to stand up and say, 'hey, wait a minute, what does this mean for humans', 'what are they gonna do with us next' and so on. Honestly, I don't see people waking up to it, and they will let it get to that point if WE, those who are informed and at least somewhat awake, don't do something to prevent it. And talking about things like this in an open public forum, can definitely help, if even only a little bit. The word gets out, and spreads and gets people talking making people more aware even though they don't care and won't try to DO anything about it until it's too late. Just like the Jews in Germany and surrounding countries.

All that needs happen is that these animals are free and not hunted or put in captivity. that's all. not the whole human rights for them.

hell, humans should have the rights of these animals instead of the other way around.

animals eat each other to survive, so if it comes to animals having the rights of humans, we won't be allowed to live like the animals and WE are in fact in captivity and need to be freed. Well, it's already somewhat there. That's why we need the rights of animals. after all, we are animals, that's the nature of these bodies.

the whole thing just pisses me off.


New member
You all do know that dolphins (as well as whales, pigs, ducks, etc) regularly engage in group rape and murder, right? If they have "human rights", they will also be liable for human crimes. This might want to be thought through a bit further. It all sounds very nice and "humane" of us, but in the long run, where will it lead?

Ideally, it would force us to look at our own morality and ask ourselves who we really are. Looking at the number of criminals out there, it seems that our efforts to stifle our basic instincts is failing rather miserably. Which way do we go then?


New member
the problem is, these people giving the animals human rights, won't hold the same rules as for humans. the animals are being given more freedom with their "human rights".

ya, ideally, it SHOULD force us to look at our own morality, but we don't, well, as of yet, live in an IDEAL world.


New member
I think we should only say that those animals should be *hands off*, but then likewise pigs and dogs at the very least should be included. In all honesty, all animals should be allowed to go their own way. If a bear kills a human, why are they hunted down and killed? A mother bear will always protect her den. It's not her fault a human came too close. But she will pay the price.

There are simply too many ramifications to this issue. Whales, dolphins, etc., are really quite brutal and engage in behavior we would never condone in human society. For example, the males will get together in a sort of high council and decide who mates with whom. The males frequently trap a female and gang rape her for days on end.

We need to examine how far our "human rights" would extend. If it's a right to life, then we need to practice that with our own kind as well. No one is allowed to kill another. But we should extend it to pigs also. And exactly what determines where the line of sentience is drawn? Is it intelligence? Pigeons do better math than humans. Not higher math but even so. All the primates do as well. Crows are more clever than is commonly thought and use tools and methods we would previously only attribute to human intelligence. We know all primates use tools. But so do ants. Maybe all the animal kingdom is more clever than we currently would like to believe. We just haven't looked hard enough.

One thing is certain though: Humans are far and away the most brutal of all the animals. Is it then right for us to judge others? I think "protect others from us" might be the way forward.


New member
kotn, you're absolutely right. i have to agree with that last statement.

But my only issue then becomes, by placing even a "hands off" on these animals, what then for what we are allowed to eat? I mean, i dont' agree with mass slaughter of animals for food. we should only kill what we need to eat. not that killing any animal is right, but it becomes a matter of survival. and what happens when these rights are extended onto plants? When we're not allowed to eat plants or animals, what then?


New member
If we give any animal this sentient right to life as we humans allegedly enjoy, then that will have to be a ramification. Are you prepared to deal with that? If a human is starving and can only find another human for food, is that okay? No court of law will say it is. Farming animals specifically for our consumption would be tantamount to taking kids from an orphanage because no one wants them and using them for dinner. Is that right? Our current farming techniques are appalling. I wouldn't eat any food farmed through mass agricultural methods. But to live your life like that is beyond my level of tolerance. We need to examine our priorities and sort things that way. There are simply too many ethical issues with this to solve in one fell swoop.