Thursday, July 19, 2012

Neuroscience and a whale of a legal case

Brandom Keim writes in Wired Science about a movement by some animal advocates to give legal rights to whales and dolphins, collectively known as cetaceans. An excerpt from the article:

 “’We have all the evidence to show that there is an egregious mismatch between who cetaceans are and how they are perceived and still treated by our species,’ said evolutionary neurobiologist Lori Marino of Emory University during a February meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“’These characteristics make it ethically inconsistent to deny the basic rights of cetaceans.’ “The discussion at which Marino spoke was titled ‘Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Ethical and Policy Implications of Intelligence,’ and its presence at the AAAS annual meeting, a sort of all-star game for science, signifies a sea-level change in how cetaceans are understood.

“Just a few decades ago, cetacean rights would have been considered a purely sentimental rather than scientifically supportable idea. But scientifically if not yet legally, evidence is overwhelming that cetaceans are special.

“At a purely neuroanatomical level, their brains are as complex as our own. Their brains are also big — and not simply because cetaceans are large. Dolphins and whales have brains that are exceptional for their size, second only to modern humans in being larger than one would expect. They also possess neurological structures that, in humans, are linked to high-level social and intellectual function."

Read the whole article in Wired Science.

Should killer whales be captive?
Do dolphins deserve special status?

1 comment:

  1. This seems to come around right at the same time as the SeaWorld fiasco and the debate on captive Orcas. I feel like this is part of the same movement.