Are dolphins persons?

Are humans the only persons on the planet? Two zoologists and an ethicist have created a stir in the silly season after Christmas by announcing that dolphins should be counted as persons.

"Many dolphin brains are larger than our own and second in mass only to the human brain when corrected for body size," says Lori Marino, a zoologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. "The neuroanatomy suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions." She believes that dolphins are even more intellitent than chimpanzees, who appear to have the IQ of a 3-year-old child.

Dr Marino and her colleagues will make a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in February. Diana Reiss, of Hunter College, in New York, will argue that dolphins are cultural animals who can communicate behaviour, are altruistic and have self-awareness. Thomas I. White, a professor of business ethics at Loyola Marymount University in California who also does research in animal ethics, will present the philosophical case for regarding dolphins as "nonhuman persons."

The implications of overturning our speciesist misconceptions are obvious: no more dolphins in theme parks and on dinner plates. ~ London Sunday Times, Jan 3 ; Nature, Jan 4


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