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Dolphins deserve rights as 'persons', experts say

Whales and dolphins’ advanced abilities and culture means they should be legally protected, a group of experts has argued.

A dolphin at a public aquarium in Florida
A dolphin at a public aquarium in Florida
Image: Chris O'Meara/AP/Press Association Images

WHALES AND DOLPHINS should be classified as “nonhuman persons” and given some of the same rights as humans, scientists have been told at a conference in Canada.

This means that the marine mammals should never be kept in captivity or used for human entertainment – and practices such as whaling should end immediately, according to experts promoting a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans.

The declaration states that “all cetaceans [whales and dolphins] as persons have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing”.

Dolphins are “far more intellectually sophisticated than previously thought”, have “advanced cognitive abilities” and a sophisticated culture, a summary of the presentation given to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the weekend says.

Academic speakers Lori Marino, Thomas White and Chris Butler-Stroud argued for the Declaration, which says cetaceans are “entitled to an international order” in which their rights can be “fully realised”.

According to the BBC, Thomas White said:

A person needs to be an individual. If individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort [dolphins] is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being.

The scientists are calling for a legal status for whales and dolphins, which would put their rights on a similar footing to those of humans, the Guardian reports.

More: Killer whales sue Seaworld for ‘slavery’>

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Michael Freeman

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