There’s some big news out there for water-dwelling creatures! Dolphins and whales have human advocates at work to draw up a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans (2010) which states:
Every individual cetacean has the right to life… no cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude, be subject to cruel treatment, or be removed from their natural environment…no cetacean is the property of any state, corporation, human group or individual.
This Declaration has already been accepted in India and in Toshima (an island in Japan) where dolphins have all the above legal rights, under the title of “non human persons”. You have to admit this is a pretty big deal. Their “citizenship” is predicated on a few important factors.
We’re saying the science has shown that individuality, consciousness and self-awareness are no longer unique human properties. — Tom White
For a detailed review of how dolphins and whales have proven they do have each of these factors, read here.
While this news is kind of cool, it does raise some questions. For example, should chimpanzees have citizenship? What about dogs? These animals often work as service animals and in movies… Under this declaration, will the saying “Nothing’s certain but death and taxes” apply to all citizens?
While many a scientist is arguing for cetacean rights, I’d like to add my piece. In a 2011 study of Sperm Whales, scientists found a pod that had adopted a disabled bottlenose dolphin. The deformed dolphin was well integrated and accepted in the pod.
Over eight days of observation, the biologists observed the adult dolphin swimming, feeding, and even nuzzling along with the sperm whale behemoths. “It really looked like they had accepted the dolphin for whatever reason. They were being very sociable.” says Alexander Wilson
Dolphins and whales didn’t need the American Disability Act or other legislation to make them treat their disabled peers well. They didn’t need the stigma of animal cruelty or associated penalties to generously open their family to another species. They reap no branding or PR benefit by this case of charity.
So my question is… what makes us so special that we deserve to be in the same category as these “non-human persons”? Should we idealize humanity or cetaceanity?