Dolphins are people too and deserve human rights -- experts
Dolphins deserve to be treated as non-human "persons" whose rights to life and liberty should be respected, scientists meeting in Canada have been told.
A small group of experts in philosophy, conservation and dolphin behaviour were canvassing support for a "Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans".
They believe dolphins -- and their whale cousins -- are sufficiently intelligent and self-aware to justify the same ethical considerations given to humans.
Recognising cetaceans' rights would mean an end to whaling and the captivity of dolphins and whales, or their use in entertainment.
The move is based on years of research that has shown dolphins and whales to have large, complex brains and a human-like level of self-awareness.
This has led the experts to conclude that although non-human, dolphins and whales are "people" in a philosophical sense, which has far-reaching implications.
Ethics expert Professor Tom White, from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, author of In Defence Of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier, said: "Dolphins are non-human persons. A person needs to be an individual.
"If individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being.
"The captivity of beings of this sort, particularly in conditions that would not allow for a decent life, is ethically unacceptable; commercial whaling is ethically unacceptable.
"We're saying the science has shown that individuality, consciousness, self awareness, is no longer a unique human property. That poses all kinds of challenges."