The Economic Consequences of Giving Dolphins “Non-Person Rights”
The United Nations declared that all humans have the right to life, liberty and shelter (citation pending. UN website). As an intelligent species should dolphins be given the same guarantees? Recently scientists have been calling for increased protection of dolphins because there is evidence that they are highly intelligent and capable of abstract thought; however the consequences of grating them Special protections of their habitats and species would be economically devastating to the fishing and shipping industries. The question of whether they should be given special protections has come up and this essay will examine the argument between the morality and the economic benefits and consequences of giving dolphins these protections.
Dolphins have been regarded as an intelligent species since the 50’s, however in the last couple years there has been significant research into their intelligence. Through numerous tests, dolphins have been shown to be capable of recognising themselves in mirrors (Psarakos). Until recently, only humans and certain species primates have been able to recognise themselves as a reflection in mirror, this is an important indicator of animals that are capable of meta-cognation, or to think about thinking. This in turn indicates a degree of sapience (Sternberg). If they are proven to be a sapient species rather than an instinctive one, scientists are calling for them to be protected on the same level as humans. Dolphins have also been shown to be capable of planning for the future and have a sense of delayed gratification. A typical case is dolphins picking up trash in their tank and giving it to their trainer in exchange for a fish as a reward. From this action-reward comes the emergent behaviour of the dolphins hoarding trash and delivering it piece by piece to maximise rewards (Ultimate Guide: Dolphins).
There is also evidence that dolphins are able to communicate abstract spatial ideas such as left and right. A study at the Sea Life Park in Hawaii trained dolphins to push buttons first when a light was flashing or a different button if the light was constant; Then to push the buttons in sequence and finally to only have one dolphin able to see the signal and light and the other dolphin would have to push the button based only on verbal cues from its partner (Ultimate Guide: Dolphins). All of these things help support the argument that dolphins are an intelligent species. By proving that dolphins are intelligent, scientists and activists could start arguing the pros and cons of giving dolphins extra protection of their habitat and species.
At the moment, dolphins are not currently an endangered species, however the call by scientists to give them “non-person” rights would give them a substantial protection from exploitation my many industries. By granting dolphins these protections, their habitats would be protected and preserved from...