Renowned philosopher Professor Thomas I White has been an advocate for recognising the rights of whales and dolphins for over two decades. He outlines his manifesto for recognising the personhood status of whales and dolphins in his Primer on Non-human Personhood and Cetacean Rights. Simply, he argues that the supporting scientific evidence now demonstrates that, among others, whales and dolphins have the basic right to life and the right not to be incarcerated.
In a new essay ‘Whales, Dolphins and Ethics: A Primer’, White now lays down the gauntlet to marine mammal scientists, asking us not just to languish in data collection and analysis, but to also reflect on the ethical significance of some of these new scientific insights. He notes: ‘The fundamental challenge for marine mammal scientists who want to explore the ethical implications of what marine mammal science has discovered about whales and dolphins is to move from the description of facts about whales and dolphins to the evaluation of what those facts say about human behavior towards these cetaceans’.
– What are the ethical implications of the fact that whales and dolphins demonstrate such intellectual and emotional sophistication?
– Which ethical standards should be used in evaluating how humans treat them?
– When looked at through this lens, which human behaviours are ethically problematic? How do we change our behaviour to improve the situation?
White argues further that beyond the basic right to life, whales and dolphins deserve the right to flourish in their natural environments and then outlines what the conditions for flourishing might be for these species. If you want to know more watch this presentation.