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A Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins

May 24, 2010

In collaboration with Paola Cavalieri of the Great Ape Project, this weekend WDCS hosted a ground breaking meeting in Helsinki, Finland. Experts gathered to ask whether cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) should be considered as non-human persons.

The Helsinki meeting brought together experts in philosophy, law and cetacean science, including Matti Hayry, Sudhir Chopra, Thomas White, Hal Whitehead, Lori Marino, Paola Cavalieri, Margi Prideaux, Niki Entrup and Chris Butler-Stroud, to debate the merits of recongising that whales and dolphins have a right to life and what this will mean for their future protection.

As discussed on this blog before, there are extraordinary recent scientific insights into the lives of these amazing animals, including their often complex social lives, their sense of self, capacity for empathy towards others and even their ability to transmit culture between generations.

The meeting was asked what moral responsibilities does our evolving scientific knowledge of cetaceans bestow upon us.

In response, the Helsinki Group agreed a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins‘. Which is pretty ground-breaking stuff by anyone’s standards!

The Declaration and the conference document are available online at, and the general public is encouraged to sign.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sweetwater Tom permalink
    May 27, 2010 10:18 pm

    I have gladly signed the document.

    Are transcripts of the speakers going to be made available? I see the abstracts on the Cetacean Rights website but no mention of transcripts.



  2. May 28, 2010 12:36 am

    Thank you for your support Tom.

    The full papers will be available very soon. Each of the speakers needs a few weeks to finish them (as is often the case in such conferences) and then they will be published.

    I will publish them here on this blog too. I am also keen to develop a resource page for people, because there are some really interesting and seminal papers published now, and the more people reading them the better!


  3. June 30, 2010 1:22 pm

    It is always heartening to see this topic getting some of the attention it so very much deserves.
    I am a Canadian author and have recently written a book, REKINDLING THE WATERS: The Truth About Swimming With Dolphins, chronicling my twenty years living with and working on behalf of dolphins. While the first two thirds presents much unique anecdotal evidence for their self awareness and sentience, the final third gathers the best science available demonstrating clearly why cetaceans do indeed qualify as non-human persons. The dynamic ethical adjustments which we must then face in our treatment of these beings follows closely.
    Please have a look:

    Leah Lemieux

  4. April 10, 2011 8:28 am

    Hi I am from and I love your site! I am linking up to you but would also love to do a post on your organization. We are right on board with your campaign! What a day it would be that cetaceans to begin living their lives without fear of man who has thwarted their attempts at communication for centuries. Please check out our site.
    Kirsten Johnson

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