As the number of businesses demanding more ethical treatment of animals raised for food continues to increase, it’s no surprise that questions about animal consciousness and the rights that should come along with the acknowledgment of not only their ability to feel pain, but also their experiences of self-awareness, are percolating in a number of communities.
One such dialogue took place at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest science conference, which was held in Vancouver last month. A Declaration of Cetacean Rights, created in Finland several years ago, was again discussed at AAAS, focusing on the indisputable level of dolphin self-awareness, which, the group says, should make them considered “non-human persons” with rights. According to one of the presenters, Loyola Marymount University professor Tom White and author of In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier, a dolphin, like any person, has the right to be an individual, and just as the intentional killing of a human person is not tolerated, the killing of dolphins should not be either. In his book, White writes, “These beings are curious about humans and seek contact with us.”
The Helsinki Group created the Declaration, which cites ten points to dolphin rights:
- 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.
- All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
- No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
- Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
- Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
- The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.
- Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.
- No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.
- Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.
According to White, “They can do things with their biological senses that we cannot achieve with our most advanced technology. Some say they have the ability to heal. Some claim these beings are telepathic. Others go further and say they are highly advanced spiritually and have a wide range of psychic abilities.”
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger