New Rights for Whales and Dolphins

A panel of international experts covering various disciplines, ranging from behavioural science to philosophy and international law, have concluded at a conference held in Finland over the weekend that all whales and dolphins have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing.

The two day, multi-disciplinary conference organised by WDCS (the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society) and held at the University of Helsinki, addressed the question of whether whales and dolphins should, in the same way as great apes, be considered as non-human persons and be granted special status.

Experts discussed the increasing body of scientific evidence with respect to cetaceans, including emergent understanding of self-awareness, abstract thought and cultural complexity. The meeting also assessed this data in the context of our current moral principles, and subsequently proposed a formal ‘Declaration on the rights for whales and dolphins‘.

“Recognizing that whales and dolphins, just as the non-human great apes, have a right to life and should be treated as persons is part of what we consider as moral progress,” states Paola Cavalieri, co-founder of the Great Ape Project and initiator of the conference.

“Whales and Dolphins can not, and should not be seen as a resource. It is this out-of- date approach that allows for their continued killing, as well as polluting and destroying their natural environment. It is time we see them, and treat them, as beyond use”, says Chris Butler-Stroud, chief executive of WDCS.

The Declaration, which is now open for members of the public to sign (go to, stands in strong opposition to the ongoing negotiations by Member States of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) who are currently considering the adoption of a proposal to lift the ban on commercial whaling at its next annual meeting in June, 2010.


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