Citizen status for dolphins?

Paul Raven @ 07-01-2010

Well, maybe not… but researchers who work with dolphins have long proclaimed their high level of intelligence, suggesting that they’re the second smartest critter on Earth (after ourselves, natch). Now some are saying that they should be granted a suite of basic rights as befits “non-human persons”. [via @fabiofernandes; image by Just Taken Pics]

If this sounds familiar, then you’ve been paying attention – a little over a year ago we mentioned the Great Ape Project, a pressure group pushing for human rights for our primate cousins, and there was a court case in Austria a while back in which campaigners attempted to get a court to rule that a chimpanzee called Hiasl should have parity of rights with human beings.

Given the number of other more pressing issues on our collective plate at the moment, I can’t see human-level rights for higher animals becoming a hot-button issue any time soon. But the activities of the more radical (and, for my money, seriously misguided and hypocritical) animal rights groups have begun to nudge into the realms of terrorism; as the centralised political power of nation-states continues to fragment under the pressure of networked special-interest groups, we can probably expect to see more drastic demonstrations of discontent from those who would see some other species join humanity at the top of the ladder. Enumerating the deep ironies implicit in that (and in all other types of terrorism, state-sanctioned or otherwise) is left as an exercise for the reader.

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4 Responses to “Citizen status for dolphins?”

  1. Justin Pickard says:

    You seem a lot less sympathetic to this than I’d have expected, Paul. Sure, there’s a whole festering midden of ethical concerns here, but shouldn’t the SF crowd be more open to the prospect of non-human subjectivity than the average person? As a book recommendation, I’ve just started reading When Species Meet, by biologist/cultural theorist Donna Haraway. Challenging and a bit weird, but highly recommended.

    Plus, we’ll blatantly need the dolphins on side when hunting for life beneath the Europan ice. 🙂

  2. Paul Raven says:

    Oh, on an intellectual and philosophical level, I’m all for it – start the uplift programs immediately! Some non-human perspective in our planetary cultural discourse would be a welcome and wonderful thing. But I’ll confess to severe disillusionment as regards a lot of animal rights organisations, large and small – a disillusionment based partly in genuine experience. As with many other spheres of discourse, the ones who shout the loudest tend to be the ones with the least to say, and the promise of ideological conflict attracts the worst sorts of people to the visible forefront; meanwhile, the larger, older organisations remain essentially benevolent and well-meaning, but increasingly hampered by their own institutional mass. This is a microcosm of all modern political discourse, I think, and you’re already aware of my disillusionment with that… 😉

  3. khannea says:

    What if, say, the netherlands declares all Dolphins dutch citizens, albeit disabled, and holds everyone who kills one subject to criminal proceedings, extraditional requests and risk of incarceration? As if you killed a disabled person. Murder, or ‘personslaughter’. Might raise a troubling international legal precedent.

  4. Robert Koslover says:

    This question has been studied previously. See: http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/61945/detail/ Heh.