Do Dolphins, Whales, Chimps and Elephants Deserve ‘Human’ Rights?

Written by Lloyd Alter

Nobody who grew up watching Flipper reruns has any doubt about the intelligence of dolphins, but Andy Revkin at Dot Earth looks at it, and the issue of animal intelligence a lot more seriously. He discusses the issue with Thomas I. White, a professor of business ethics. The key point:

The scientific evidence is so strong for the intellectual and emotional sophistication of dolphins that there simply is no question that they are ‘nonhuman persons’ who deserve respect as individuals. Anyone who doubts this either is unfamiliar with the data or doesn’t understand the ethical significance of it. Both the killing and captivity of dolphins are ethically indefensible.

The issue extends beyond dolphins. Revkin quotes the mission statement of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:

Owing to advances in several fields, including the neurosciences, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the human species no longer can ignore the rights of non-human persons. A number of non-human animals, including the great apes, cetaceans (i.e. dolphins and whales), elephants, and parrots, exhibit characteristics and tendencies consistent with that of a person’s traits like self-awareness, intentionality, creativity, symbolic communication, and many others. It is a moral and legal imperative that we now extend the protection of ‘human rights’ from our species to all beings with those characteristics.

Then of course the question is: why stop there? Pigs are pretty smart. Revkin quotes Carl Safina on that one:

The argument against it really becomes convenience. Their capture, enslavement, and slaughter is something we do because we want to, because our devices make it possible, and because they can’t adequately fight back.

We promote vegetarianism on TreeHugger because of the carbon footprint of meat; that’s why we can justify the concept of the weekday vegetarian. But reading Revkin makes me wonder whether that is really good enough anymore.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.

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273 comments

Lucia Moreira
LUCIA Moreira2 years ago

PRA MIM ,OS ANIMAIS COM A VIDA DELES E NOS HUMANOS COM A NOSSA,NIMGUEM ROUBAR O DIREITO DE VIVER E NEM ATRAPALHAR O OUTRO,, ISTO É TUDO, SOU A FAVOR DE AJUDAR E Ñ ATRAPALHAR OU MATAR

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Sabine I.
Past Member 2 years ago

I love animals but talking about rights is... i don't know... wrong because they don't have duties.
Obviously this doesn't mean they should be hurt, this is COMMONSENSE i think.
Just the word "rights" is too controversial.

Christinaalex Nicki
.2 years ago

THANK YOU FOR SHARING

Loesje vB
Loesje vB2 years ago

Nicole B. I agree with you they deserve Animal Rights not Human Rights.

Lynda H.
Lynda H.2 years ago

So, Mark, in order to validate the natural law of all living things - I need to plant lots of trees and then commit suicide?

I know what you want to say: that all humans - especially me - are intrinsically evil and should all top ourselves, but if you want to convince me of your POV, you’re going to have to use some logic. In fact, it has to be pure and honest logic and nothing else. Have another try.

Mark Donners
Mark Donners2 years ago

Lynda H says: "If humans are no different from other animals, then like all other animals it is our nature to kill any other animal which serves the purpose of our survival and well-being, for that is the way of all nature"

Since it is actually the way of all animals that are an integral part of the ecosystem to contribute and share equally in the balance of that ecoystem, then I look forward to you as a self centered member of an overpopulated human species which is destroying this planet to plant lots of trees and then immediately sacrifice your own body to the ecosystem after you finish with your obsession to kill animals. No objections or you're a hypocrite.

Patricia P.
Patricia P.2 years ago

We must give these creatures every possible protection, even if we must assign ownership to countries, states or individual protective organizations. We cannot allow a few money-grabbing thieves to take their lives for the sake of pelts or ivory, or even for the protection of privately owned livestock. Build better fences. Don't kill OUR wolves. It is inhumane and rotten. I have seen reports of shephards killing wolves, not caring that there is a cave full of starving pups waiting to be fed. There has to be balance. The farmers need money, the animals need food and protection..

carol k.
carol k.2 years ago

100% x's 2000! Most definitely! YES!

Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.