As demonstrated last weekend at the annual meeting of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), there is a movement to classify
dolphins and whales as "persons" vested with human rights. This classification
would curtail activities such as whaling and probably put Sea World out of
business. In related news, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(PETA) recently sued Sea World, unsuccessfully claiming that Shamu's waterpark "captivity"
was the equivalent of slavery in violation of the 13th Amendment.
To be sure, the law recognizes animal
rights and certain acts of cruelty are subject to criminal prosecution in many
jurisdictions. In others, the rule of law permits the same species to be served
as a meal.
Although few would argue with animal rights that include
bans on torture, dog fighting, and the like, does the intelligence of dolphins
and whales warrant the rule of law protecting them as "non-human persons"?
To do so debases both the concept of what it means to be
human and fundamental human rights that are to be protected. The mere fact that
such rights could only be bestowed by humanity upon animals, and not vice
versa, demonstrates that there is a difference that should not be blurred in
the interest of protecting non-humans.
One can understand the attempt by animal rights activists to
piggyback onto human rights as a means to advance their agenda of creating
additional new protections for the animals on whose behalf they advocate. But
to permit such a grant of human rights to occur demeans those very human rights
rather than elevating the dolphin or whale to equality with humanity.
To be fair, this is not the first special interest group
that has attempted to make gains at the expense of human rights. For example,
proponents of free Internet access are trying to have such access classified as
a human right. But there is a
fundamental difference between the effort to extend the scope of human rights
enjoyed by humans and the denigration of those rights by conferring them on
beings for whom they were not intended and whose ancestors did not suffer and
struggle to establish and uphold.
Considering how many of our fellow human beings around the
world are daily denied these very rights which we hold as their birthright,
some of them as we write by being bombarded, killed, maimed or wounded by their
own government in Syria, one needs to question the sanity and intentions of those expending
their energy, efforts, celebrity stature, and/or money to promote this misguided effort while
letting their fellow humans, men, women, and children more innocent than the
whales and dolphins, suffer and die.
The rule of law should be applied to protect fundamental
human rights and such animal rights as humanity bestows upon non-humans.
However, dolphins and whales are not humans, and the law cannot and should not deny
this reality to pretend otherwise.
deserve same rights as humans, say scientists, BBC News (Feb. 21, 2012)
dolphins and whales have 'human' rights?, CBC News (Feb. 21, 2012)
so smart they could be classified as 'non-human persons', News.com.au (Feb.
languish at Vancouver aquarium, Vancouver Courier (Feb. 22, 2012)
deserve rights, scientists told, National Post (Feb. 21, 2012)
Rights for Orcas? - PETA Takes Sea World To Court!, OpEdNews (Feb. 21,