Scientists Call For Dolphins to Be Given “Non-Human Person” Status

Scientists are seeking greater protection of dolphins as “non-human persons” in light of research showing that they are the second most intelligence species after humans. They specifically argue that the continued use of the animals for amusement is morally unacceptable. They might want to start with the Japanese, who cherish an annual massacre of dolphins as a cultural tradition (shown below).

Dolphin brains are larger than human brains and are second in density only to our own. Their language has many similarities to human speech.

Previously, dolphins were placed after chimps in intelligence but new research shows that they are more intelligent than both chimps and three-year-old children. They also have been shown to have distinct personalities and can recognize themselves in mirrors as well as solve difficult problems.

They also seem to be able to teach each other new things. In one case in Australia, an injured dolphin was taught to speak during three weeks of care. Scientists then watched the same dolphin teach the lessons to others dolphins when it was released into the wild.

Recognizing intellect in animals is a difficult cultural barrier for humans. Such evidence of intelligence or sentience is disturbing in a world where animals are often treated as foodstuffs or entertainment.

Here is how dolphins are treated in the annual celebration in Japan:

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28 thoughts on “Scientists Call For Dolphins to Be Given “Non-Human Person” Status”

  1. Has anyone even noticed that dispite the slaughtering humans do on other species, these species haven’t waged war on us? Yet we wage war on each other over fossil fuels, food, drinking water, land and religion? All these dolphins and other species want to do is to live in peace without us interfering. Protection laws are great on paper and in the media but its humans that have to obey these laws. If we violate human rights all hell breaks loose, but if animal rights are violated, and the people who are struggling to help protect them, we are called eco-terrorists or tree huggers or scum or whatever the popular phrase is of the day. The sooner the human race somes together and starts treating every living being with the respect that we ourselves rage on for ourselves the better. We have to stop constantly taking from the planet and start giving back or we are going to see ourselves spiral into dark hole we will never get ourselves out of. We’ll have no other species to blame but ourselves. Empathy works apathy doesn’t.

  2. Great now Obama has to get them into our National health care program too. Dems should love this.

  3. While elevating cetacean status is a great idea that is long over due, I disagree with the assessment of intelligence based on the brain weight/body weight ratio. There is a theory that was put forth by John Lilly that as brains grew in size, larger bodies were needed to protect them against rotary acceleration. So in effect, large brains need large bodies and large bodies do not always house large brains.
    Cetaceans have been gradually moving up the intelligence chain in recent years and it was not too long ago when some scientists considered them to be about as intelligent as dogs.

    It may come to pass that scientist eventually announce that they are as intelligent or more intelligent than humans. It will be interesting to see how humanity deals with that.

  4. Christa and BIL: I apologize for getting in the middle of your posting/response, I do not get the messages on this blog in order. I got your second message regarding the freestyle nature of the command given to dolphins but not the first one until just now when I came back to comment on the observation regarding the dolphins. Thanks for pointing me toward an article on Ravens Christa that I will read the next time I visit the library if I can’t find it on line.

    Sometime my ISP gets ‘backed up’ and I don’t get posted messages in order. Depending on the subject matter- the ‘loaded’ threads especially, I hesitate to post until I wait 20-30 minutes during prime-time because I have made more than one spontaneous response and had it be apropos of nothing or in response to a posting that was clarified in the next posting or rendered irrelevant by a series of postings I didn’t get for up to half-hour after they were posted. I even hit the ‘refresh’ button to see if anything is posted before I make most of my postings to guard against that. I interrupted a post/reply you and BIL made and that was inadvertent. Please accept my apology.
    Christa: “be creative” command… they were expressing creativity”

    Thanks for that information even though it actually disturbs me. If they are smart enough to commiserate among themselves and reach an agreement on what they will do next in the ‘act’ that makes their captivity even more criminal. Criminal is the only word I can come up with to express my horror at learning this about them. If they were that intelligent then that portion of the show may have been the high point of it for them.

    I worked with a couple of people that couldn’t decide what to bring to the traditional Friday night, extended, on the job lunch period. They had to be told to bring the cole slaw or whatever others didn’t volunteer to pick up on the way to work. I liked them, they were good at their craft and were upstanding guys but they were incapable of making a decision in a group setting that involved mere lunch meats and sides. Money or lack of enthusiasm was not their problem. LOL. I swear. You would have died in your seat of old age before they would have decided on a trick if they were in that tank instead of dolphins. 🙂

  5. LK,

    I have read Kiln People. It would make a great movie. Personally, I need four golems right now! Sundiver is another of his that would make a great movie although it would invite many (mostly false) comparison to Danny Boyle’s most excellent film, Sunshine.

    I also think the Uplift War could make a good starter for a series of films too, but the scope of that series is so broad, I can’t see it working unless Hollywood gave it the hardcore LOTR treatment.

    Brin is one of my favorites.

  6. BIL, As long as Brin was mentioned: did you read Kiln People by Brin?

    “Take the notion of golems — temporary clay people (not clones!) — and now imagine a near future when everybody can make them. Using a “home copier” you ditto your memories — perhaps even a genuine imprint of your soul — and off goes the duplicate to run your errands, attend your classes, or do all the drudgery work. Then, at day’s end, you download the golem’s memories.

    As a citizen of this near future, you’ve duplicated yourself a zillion times and take it for granted, sometimes being the original, sometimes the copy. You live your life in parallel, sending expensive “study golems” to the library while cheap models clean the house and your real body works out at the gym. Two thirds of the Earth’s population consists of temporaries made of clay. People seem to have even adjusted to this new way of life, until….” (Copied from his website

    picked it up as a cut-out for $1.00! I’d have not bought it for full price because the cover and blurbs weren’t that impressive to me and that did the book a disservice, especially with us impulse book buyers. I thought of it just last week as I watched Surrogates w/Bruce Willis. Brins’ book would have been just as good as a movie (big action-packed finish) and had as a premise a much more complex view of our relationship to each other and the nature of mechanical surrogacy.

  7. BIL, we are too much in synch generally, I thought about making a comment on another thread roping in David Brin and darn! you beat me to the punch in, like, the next comment. LOL, I’m actually not sure what raven article you are referencing but yes, we probably read the same one. There is an old book on ravens, “Ravens in Winter” that got me hooked on Ravens years ago. I had the opportunity to acquire a baby Raven about 12 years ago that needed to be fostered but it still required those every 2 hour feedings and I couldn’t take it with my work schedule. It was an Albino and had probably been pushed out of it’s nest by the parents or siblings. I still resent having to work for a living because of that (among other things, of course).

  8. Oo, I remember seeing Dolphins at Busch Gardens one time where their trainer had a “be creative” command. The dolphins would communicate briefly in chatter, and then perform complex and beautiful stunts, like one where they approached each other from opposite ends of the pool and jumped up out of the water at the same center location spinning around each other. It was beautiful, and much more complex than could be taught; I sincerely believe they were expressing creativity.

  9. Lottakatz, I am glad you mention ravens. I read a great article in Scientific American a few months ago that showed that socially, ravens are more intelligent than chimps. They are also uniquely able to use tools to obtain other tools for tasks, and to plan multi-step actions in advance, neither of which chimps can do.

  10. Lottakatz:

    “Actually I could get on board with that but I recognize that it would probably disenfranchise at least 60% of the electorate.”

    very funny and sad but true.

  11. Byron: “…when they understand the Rights of Man and the Declaration, I will be on board for them being protected as human beings in toto”

    Actually I could get on board with that but I recognize that it would probably disenfranchise at least 60% of the electorate. On the upside the factory farming of animals would become obsolete as cannibalism gained popularity. Somehow, it seems win-win to me.

    As for a list of non-human persons that might fit the bill for non-human person-hood: chimps, elephants, octopus and a bunch of parrot species. Also maybe bonobos, ravens and bower birds.

  12. Anyone that has a dog can see that animals have intelligence. I don’t eat much pork for that very reason. Cows are dumber than a government bureaucrat but pigs are probably smarter than most politicians. It wasn’t for just any reason that we are called capitalist pigs. Whomever coined that term was very smart indeed.

    There is no reason to even eat a Dolphin but they should be protected under some other mechanism. They are still animals, when they understand the Rights of Man and the Declaration, I will be on board for them being protected as human beings in toto

  13. Read any of David Brin’s Uplift series.

    Showing that we are capable of recognizing other species as intelligent and emotional beings that deserve our help and, yes, respect may be the only thing that will make aliens contact us. Or, as in the case in his series, decide not to kill us outright when they find us.

    Dolphins are a good place to start.

  14. Mespo,

    What would Bud have ever done to have Flipper get him out of those scrapes?

  15. So where does the Bush/Cheney line up go. Humans, Dolphins, Chimps . . . . .Or do they fit in the mix?

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