Dolphins Are More Human-Like Than You May Think

By Efrosini Costa

Dolphins Are More Human-Like Than You May Think
A group of dolphins jumping from the Atlantic Ocean near Madeira Island.

What separates man from the animals has always been our ability to empathise, to reason and to consider the repercussions of our actions. That’s how we justify keeping our furry friends as subordinates or pets and caging other fascinating creatures in zoos, aquariums and fun parks for our amusement.

But scientific research has increasingly shown that cetaceans – whales, dolphins and the like – are more intelligent than we think, with the ability to reason and understand suffering. According  to the experts, there is enough evidence to show that we share many qualities, thought to be ‘human’, with these beings:

  • they are self-aware,
  • have detailed memory and
  • have individual personalities
  • display complex social behaviour
  • they have close, long-term relationships in sub-communities (thought to be categorised by culture)
  • have the ability to  learn symbol-based codes and  to comprehend artificial human language

Hence, they argue, whales and dolphins are ‘persons’ and should be treated by us humans as such. At a science conference in Vancouver, Canada the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) saw support for a Deceleration of Rights for Cetaceans. Such a move would mean an end to whaling or the hunt for dolphins, as well as an end to their captivity and use in entertainment.

One country which is supporting the move to recognide the animals as persons is India. “Dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons and as such should have their own specific rights'” the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided. They have forbid keeping dolphins in captivity or for public entertainment, that extends to the country’s native Ganges river dolphin as well as the snubfin dolphin. India has become a beacon of hope for those arguing in defence of dolphins and  have contributed to an emerging and important dialogue about the ways we think about cetaceans – as thinking, feeling beings rather than ‘cash cows’ or pets.

Did you know dolphins call each other by name?

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