Academic journal article Tamkang Review

Declaring Whales' Rights

Academic journal article Tamkang Review

Declaring Whales' Rights

Article excerpt

Whales learn and live in ways that previously have only been identified as "human"

Hal Whitehead (1)

Essentially, the brains of primates and cetaceans arrived at the same cognitive space while evolving along quite different paths

Lori Marino (2)

A fundamental moral principle, which was first formulated by Aristotle, is that like cases should be treated alike

James Rachels (3)

The Declaration

In May 2010, a Conference on Cetacean Rights was held at the University of Helsinki. (4) At the end of the conference the following "Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins" was issued:

Based on the principle of the equal treatment of all persons;

Recognizing that scientific research gives us deeper insights into the complexities of cetacean minds, societies and cultures;

Noting that the progressive development of international law manifests an entitlement to life by cetaceans;

We affirm that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing. We conclude that

1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.

2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.

3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.

4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.

5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.

6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.

7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.

8. Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.

9. No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.

10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.

The History of IWC

In June 2010, the town of Agadir, in Morocco, hosted the 62nd Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The history--and prehistory--of the IWC is rather known. Starting at least from the eleventh century, cetaceans, perceived as free resources, had been savagely massacred. Around World War I, large-scale hunting had developed into a commercial industry leading to the near extinction of many species; and the realization by the industries that their profits depended upon the availability of sizable numbers of whales prompted, in 1931, the conclusion of a Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Since, however, due to the lack of enforcement of the agreements, the extermination of the entire whale population soon reemerged as a major concern, the year 1946 saw the creation of the IWC, with the explicit goal of coordinating the different national industries. And if for the first two decades the IWC's impact was hardly noticeable, soon afterwards the growing international interest in the plight of cetaceans made it the locus of a clash between the pro- and anti-whaling camps. (5) In 1980 the IWC even sponsored in Washington, D.C., a conference on "Cetacean Intelligence and Behavior, and the Ethics of Killing Cetaceans." (6) Then, after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species outflanked the IWC on its left, listing as threatened many whale species, and in the face of the escalating "whale wars" of the 1980s, the year 1986 saw a victory of the conservationist countries with the approval of a five-year moratorium, implying a ban on commercial whaling that exempted only "aboriginal subsistence whaling" and "scientific whaling".

In 1990, when the moratorium was renewed, the reform process accelerated, and the IWC condemned as unnecessary the killing "for research". …

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