Scientists Say Dolphins Should Be Granted Human Non-Human Person Status


Photo via Esparta via Flickr CC

Those involved in the environmental movement push for all of the natural world to have the same inalienable rights that we humans give ourselves. After all, it seems only fair that we treat everything with the same respect as we aspire to treat one another with. However, it's still a novel concept when we grant human status to other species in the animal kingdom, or extending rights to plants as Ecuador has done. Last year we saw the Spanish parliament grant great apes this status, and now, at least one scientist is pushing that we do the same for dolphins. TG Daily reports that Lori Marino, a zoologist at Emory University has used MRI scans to show that dolphins are incredibly intelligent. That might not sound like news. But what the MRI scans seem to reveal is that after comparison with primate brains, dolphins seem to be even more intelligent than chimpanzees.

And if that's the case, Marino concludes we should give dolphins the same status as humans non-human person status.

UPDATE - I wasn't precise enough in my wording, here. To be more correct, it is "non-human person" status that is being sought. A thank you goes to Rob Brown who points out the importance of being very specific about word choice in this issue:

"What is being called for is listing dolphins as "non-human persons", not as humans. Saying they are humans would be saying they are Homo-sapiens. That's a scientific designation that they clearly aren't. Calling them 'persons' is geared towards having them recognized as individuals creatures, with thoughts, feelings, and culture, and that they shouldn't be treated as simply an animal, or a resource to use as we please.

What the article said was simply incorrect, and actually makes people who support this ideas seem crazy. No one is arguing that dolphins can vote, or have free speech, and those are the inane arguments that we're going to deal with when people who aren't into conservation read about people wanting to label 'dolphins as humans'. "
WATCH VIDEO: Extraordinary Animals: Supersonic Dolphin - Dolphins select their meals, squid or mackerel, by aiming their echolocation beams at the appropriate shapes.

The conclusion is not without debatable points.

"Corrected for body size, dolphins have larger brains than any primates except man, and the same surface folds found in human brains. They also have a cerebral cortex and neocortex that approach the size of those found in humans."

But science has shown that the size of the brain doesn't necessarily equate to heightened intelligence. Nevertheless, we do recognize - without the assistance of MRI scans - that dolphins are quite smart, exhibiting self-recognition, an understanding of symbol-based language, and distinct personalities. It's these traits that make dolphins so lovable to humans, and makes dolphin slaughters like those occurring annually in Taiji and elsewhere look all the more horrific.

It would likely be a long fight for scientists to get dolphins the same status as humans. But the discovery makes a stronger argument for treating all of the Earth's living things with respect and deference.

More on the Rights of Nature
Swiss Government Issues Bill of Rights for Plants
Ecuador Extends Rights To Ecosystems
California Voters Say Yes to Animal Rights

Tags: Animals | Conservation | Whales