Dolphins are people too

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Dolphins are people too

Post by Eldorion on Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:30 pm

The BBC has a very interesting article about the push from scientists and philosophers too have "non-human persons" recognized and given legal protections against hunting and captivity. They've come to the conclusion that cetaceans have a level of consciousness and self-awareness previously thought to be exclusively human. The article is below:

Dolphins deserve same rights as humans, say scientists

Dolphins should be treated as non-human "persons", with their rights to life and liberty respected, scientists meeting in Canada have been told.

Experts in philosophy, conservation and animal behaviour want support for a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans.

They believe dolphins and whales are sufficiently intelligent to justify the same ethical considerations as humans.

Recognising their rights would mean an end to whaling and their captivity, or their use in entertainment.

The move was made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada, the world's biggest science conference.

It is based on years of research that has shown dolphins and whales have large, complex brains and a human-like level of self-awareness.

This has led the experts to conclude that although non-human, dolphins and whales are "people" in a philosophical sense, which has far-reaching implications.

'Self-aware'

Ethics expert Prof Tom White, from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, author of In Defence of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier, said dolphins were "non-human persons".

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

"We're saying the science has shown that individuality - consciousness, self-awareness - is no longer a unique human property. That poses all kinds of challenges."

The declaration, originally agreed in May 2010, contains the statements "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", and "no cetacean is the property of any state, corporation, human group or individual".

It adds: "The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this declaration should be protected under international and domestic law."

Psychologist Dr Lori Marino, from Emory University in Atlanta, told how scientific advances had changed the view of the cetacean brain.

She said: "We went from seeing the dolphin/whale brain as being a giant amorphous blob that doesn't carry a lot of intelligence and complexity to not only being an enormous brain but an enormous brain with an enormous amount of complexity, and a complexity that rivals our own."

Dolphins had a sense of self which could be tested by the way they recognise themselves in mirrors, she added.

"When you get up in the morning and look in the mirror and know that's you, you have a sense of 'you'," said Dr Marino.

"They have a similar sense. They can look in a mirror and say, 'Hey, that's me'."

And some examples of intelligent cetacean behavior from the same article:

A member of a group of orcas, or killer whales, in Patagonia had a damaged jaw and could not feed. The elderly whale was fed and kept alive by its companions.

Dolphins taking part in an experiment had to press one of two levers to distinguish between sounds, some of which were very similar. By pressing a third lever, they were able to tell the researchers they wanted to "pass" on a particular test because it was too hard. "When you place dolphins in a situation like that they respond in exactly the same way humans do," said Dr Lori Marino. "They are accessing their own minds and thinking their own thoughts."

A number of captive dolphins were rewarded with fish in return for tidying up their tank. One of them ripped up a large paper bag, hid away the pieces, and presented them one at a time to get multiple rewards.

In Iceland, killer whales and fishermen have been known to work together. The whales show the fishermen where to lay their nets, and in return are allowed to feed on part of the catch. Then they lead the fleet to the next fishing ground.

I'm fascinated by this and I'm still wondering what all the implications are. There's been a push to end the accidental killing of dolphins through fishing for some time, but this would mean banning whaling, which is sure to be a very controversial issue for countries where that is a historic tradition. For example, the Japanese government gets very touchy about the issue of whaling, largely out of pride, I think, even though its not a particularly common activity. It would also mean getting dolphins out of places like SeaWorld. I wouldn't mind that since I think the conditions in a lot of those places (not sure about SeaWorld specifically) are horrible and confining, though I worry about where they would put the dolphins. A lot of aquariums would also have to make changes, but if dolphins really are people in the philosophical and psychological sense, than inconvenience is no excuse for captivity in my opinion.

This would also open the door for other animals to be given legal protection. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, but I would imagine that if dolphins have self-awareness, chimps probably do as well. I'm curious about the specific research that goes into assessing self-awareness; my memories of that from Psychology 101 are unfortunately vague. Anyway, I'd like to know what other people think about this. I don't really think we're going to see a "Declaration of Rights for Cetacean" anytime soon (even if that might be the right and just thing), but I think it's a question people should at least think about. Smile
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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by The Wobbit A Parody on Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:58 pm

Philosophically very interesting. I'm very hesitant to kill or mistreat any living thing: mice, bugs, whatever.

If everyone else would be willing to go vegan with no looking back, I would do it gladly. Otherwise it will be tough for me to say no to meat and dairy.

What about all our vegetable cousins I've consumed? Surely they have a self-awareness we cannot yet measure. All life must be respected, but how?
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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Mrs Figg on Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:14 pm

I think we should extend this to Primates too seeing as we share about 99% of our DNA with them. But I wish all animals could receive respect.

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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:30 pm

I am of the opinion that everything living, including the plants, have some level of awareness. You need a bit of a brain to have self awareness but I have never understood why that distinction should be the important one.
Ethics is a human endeaver it doesnt come into the equation in nature, we are preadators, we eat other living things to survive and that is not a choice any of us made it is a necessity.
Personnaly I have never met a mammal I didn't think was self aware- dogs and cats obviously are and when I used to help out on a farm turned out even the cows have personalities too!
So the whole thing on where you draw a line is always going to be very arbitary. Pigs are very smart for example so do we avoid eating them? Then what about the cows, not so obviously smart but clearly aware- they are perfectly capable of being given a name that they will self identify with or respond to.
What about rats?- there's a lot of us wouldn't be here at all if it wasn't for many years of scientific expermentation on rats and mice but they always seemed pretty aware to me.

There are two things going on here it seems to me, one is basic and instinctive- our need to eat- and the other is a consequence of human development- we are capable of empathy, which makes eating other creatures morally tricky. But morals are a human thing. There are no moral atoms in the universe, humans impose morality on a universe that doesn't have any- probably a doomed to failure excercise therefore.
And our notions of morality are themselves just sophiscated developments of the same sort of behaviour you see in any of the social mammal groups.
I'm really not sure its a circle which can be squared.

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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Tinuviel on Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:02 am

Apparently, the dolphin playing Flipper commit suicide by drowning itself. It just went under water and never came back up. They suffer from depression too! I guess there's alot more about Dolphins in the documentary "The Cove" which is about Dolphin fishers in Japan.


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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by halfwise on Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:53 am

I struggle with being a meat-eater, and typically only eat meat a couple times a week. My backsliding is due to growing up in Texas, and the thought of completely giving up barbecue would be like giving up a few of my toes. It's part of the identity.

There are many good reasons for being vegetarian: not just morality for animals, but for the whole ecology, and for health. I've come to accept that I'm too morally lax to pull it off without help. But it wouldn't take much, any cutie who's also a vegetarian could keep me on the straight and narrow with a simple hint or two. We guys can be kinda stupid that way.

If I ever find myself thinking about it, I eat vegetarian...it's impossible to think and do otherwise. I'm just not thinking often enough.
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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Orwell on Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:42 am

I talk to my vegetables, they don't talk back and I don't mention what their fate will be, which is a fair exchange I think. Very Happy

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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Feb 22, 2012 3:31 pm

I talk to vegetables too- but thats work for you!! Razz (Apoligies if that seems in bad taste but gallows humour is what gets most care workers through the day- if you dont laugh you cry)

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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by halfwise on Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:06 pm

Slightly dated Russian Joke:

Putin and Mednedev were out for dinner together.
Waiter (to Putin): "What will you be having for dinner tonight?"
Putin: "I'll be having the roast beef."
Waiter: "And for your vegetable?"
Putin: "Oh, he'll have the roast beef too."
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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by halfwise on Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:35 pm

Oh and Petty, I totally get the need for "off the clock" humor. Teachers are another form of caregiver in a sense. If you love your kids don't go in the teachers lounge, it's full of ogres and witches. But catch the same ones in the classroom and a miraculous transformation occurs: these same lost souls are brimming over with sweetness and light.

It's a matter of maintaining psychological balance. You want your students to experience nothing but love and human perfection, but with 20 to 30 new kids popping up every hour for 5 hours, something's gotta give. So you dash into the lounge with the other inmates for some primal scream therapy. Then back out with a cleansed spirit to meet the next batch....

I'm no longer a teacher, but the experience never leaves you.

(for the many teenagers out there, we DO love you. We really do. But it's a roller coaster of a love affair.)
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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Orwell on Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:22 pm

I personally think vegetables should be shown more respect.

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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Orwell on Mon Apr 23, 2012 5:58 am

Especially cucumbers. cyclops

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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Norc on Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:10 am

Elephants are people too.
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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:11 pm

The Archet Bugles isn't! Evil or Very Mad

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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by Orwell on Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:33 pm

Having reread this Thread - and while I respect all your views - I can't in all honesty agree that dolphins are people.. not actual people... or not hobbits, at least... sorry, guys.... No 







{{{I didn't really reread this thread, hee hee}}}

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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by halfwise on Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:26 pm

Orwell, you are a pest! Evil or Very Mad 


(this is language I usually reserve for Norc.)

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Re: Dolphins are people too

Post by chris63 on Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:30 pm


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