The Petchary believes 2011 should be the Year of the Dolphin. OK, I know 2007 was (and who noticed?) but let’s do it again, and let’s make it every year. Let us “superior” humans place dolphins where they belong… And they do not belong in any kind of enclosed space, trapped there for the “amusement” of humans. They deserve our respect, love and protection.
According to a recent article in the London “Times,” some dolphins have larger brains than humans. Recent studies suggest that they are actually the second most intelligent creature after humans (especially the bottlenose) – more so than chimpanzees, which have generally been considered “closest” to us.
Bottlenose dolphins are, of course, found in the Caribbean and are pretty widespread and not (yet) endangered in most parts of the world. But how the “sea world” people love them. They are attractive, charming, cute (just look at their smiling faces!) and yes, they love us humans, don’t they?
A positive love fest indeed. So why do we feel the need to imprison them? Is it just to feel in control? Like sitting astride elephants at the circus and making them do tricks?
Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Hunter College in New York Diana Reiss has made a number of remarkable discoveries about dolphins. Firstly, they can recognize themselves in a mirror and adjust their appearance in front of it (just like we do when we leave the house… Does this outfit look OK?). And of course 99 per cent of animals don’t recognize themselves at all. Dolphins can also create an object of play out of their own body (an air ring).
Professor Reiss has been moved by her dolphin discoveries and research to campaign against the annual slaughter of dolphins at a National Park in Taiji, Wakayama in Japan. She was the scientific adviser for the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary film, “The Cove” – a deeply disturbing account of the Japanese slaughter, where some animals are left to die slowly after their insides have been torn out, and others are “sold into slavery.” If you want to know more about the professor’s organization, ACT for Dolphins, you can visit their website at http://www.actfordolphins.org, where there is a petition signed by hundreds of scientists worldwide.
One of the scientists pleads, “You cannot ignore any longer the fact that these animals have very large brains, highly developed societies, social relationships and significant cognitive abilities.” But the annual massacre has not stopped. Some “traditions” should be thrown out, don’t you think?
Professor Thomas I. White is director of the Center for Ethics and Business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Professor White believes that dolphins and whales have rights – just as humans are supposed to have. Three years ago he wrote a book, “In Defense of Dolphins – the New Moral Frontier,” in which he asks the fundamental question: What kind of beings are dolphins? He concludes, controversially but with the kind of passion that I think needs to be brought to this topic, that the relationship between humans and dolphins is, in effect, the same as that between white slave-owners and their slaves two centuries ago. Because the dolphins, like slaves, are intelligent beings who are being treated as property.
And Professor White discusses the philosophical concept of “personhood.” It’s not just about being a human. What really makes you a person?
Think about it.
And just remember, as of 2007, over 1500 dolphins were in captivity (probably more now, and there are certainly more in captivity in Jamaica) – unable to make proper social relationships or to move freely in their concrete tanks. Along with the cruelty of Taiji and those dolphins that are carelessly caught and killed in tuna fishing nets, these “non-human persons” – as a number of scientists describe them – are mere toys, objects for fun. It is unforgivable, and those who make money out of this should be ashamed of themselves.
But then, we humans don’t do a very good job of treating each other with love, respect and caring. In Jamaica, there is little concern for human rights. So why should we care about those of dolphins? After all, the almighty tourist pays good money (U.S. Dollars!) to “interact” with them.
If you have ever seen dolphins in the wild, as the Petchary has, you would understand.
By the way, the Orca, or killer whale, is also a dolphin. But that’s another story, for another time.