A bill of rights for dolphins?

Caroline Cassidy

There have been many stories of dolphin altruism with the animals going to the aid of swimmers and surfers attacked by sharks - but they're not just kind, they're super intelligent too.

Dolphins swimming
Dolphins swimming

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In fact, they are so smart that a coalition of scientists, philosophers and animal welfare groups are now calling for dolphins to be given their own bill of rights as 'non-human persons'.

The coalition, known as the Helsinki Group, say that advances in science have shown dolphins to be extremely intelligent, complex and sensitive mammals.

"Scientific evidence is now strong enough to support the claim that dolphins are, like humans, self-aware, intelligent beings with emotions and personalities.

"Accordingly, dolphins should be regarded as 'non-human persons' and valued as individuals. From an ethical perspective, the injury, deaths and captivity of dolphins are wrong," said philosopher Thomas White.

If a law were passed, it would prevent dolphins from being kept in captivity and would protect them against attacks from fishermen.

The bill of rights says that every individual member of the cetacean order – whales, dolphins and porpoises – has a right to life and no one has the right to own them or do anything that undermines their rights, freedoms or norms.

After humans, dolphins have the second-largest brain, when brain weight is compared with overall body weight. They can recognise their own reflection, are known to grieve for lost calves, can understand human words and sentences, use sign language to communicate, and are able to watch TV and follow instructions delivered on the screen – chimps can only do this after months of training.

What do you think? Is it time dolphins were given their own rights as 'non human' intelligent beings? Leave a comment below...