I am currently sat on a train traveling back from Finland. I have just had the privilege of spending a couple of days with group of lawyers, philosophers, and dolphin and whale biologists meeting at the University of Finland to examine the current level of scientific and legal evidence for the inclusion of whales and dolphins into the moral community.
Yep, I did not know what that meant either two days ago, but I was amongst people who did, and the team systematically sifted through the evidence before them and came to what I feel is a remarkable conclusion – that whales and dolphins have a right to life and protection that goes way beyond our current constructs of ‘conservation’ and ‘protection’.
The team looked at the dynamic changes in customary internal law and the latest evidence that cetaceans have sophisticated levels of culture and social complexity that can no longer be ignored or dismissed.
I thought it might be hard to come to a conclusion that whales and dolphins now deserve even greater protection, but the meetings findings reveal that it would now be disingenuous to deny them the status of non-human persons, a term the philosopher and speaker at the conference, Thomas White has introduced me to.
I know that this claim will cause some to mock us for considering such a view, but I challenge anyone to examine the evidence and not come to the same conclusions.
Hearing the distinguished scientist Hal Whitehead discuss the discovery of culture in sperm whales was met with amazement and awe. The reflections of Professor Sudhir Chopra, reflecting on the seminal paper that he co-authored twenty years ago, Whales: Their Emerging Right to Life, published in the American Journal of International Law, concluded that even after almost two decades since this publication, his conclusions ring true today as they did then. What was particularly interesting was the rigour of the science involved at a time when the IWC is turning its back on science and using what it calls 'Ad Hoc scientific approaches', or 'twaddle' science, as Sidney Holt more clearly refers to it.
The meeting was the first stage in an ongoing debate, but its going to be a remarkable road, and it was privilege to be there at its beginning. It is also doubly important at a time when the IWC is still beholden to those who subscribe to the archaic belief that whales and dolphins are just resources. Those who support this view, such as whalers and their insipid allies such as Sweden, should reflect what has been happening at the University of Finland. Its time for a new beginning - lets hope the IWC doesn't set us back fifty years again as its threatening to do with a resumption of commercial whaling.
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