LMU Professor Presents Case for Dolphins as Nonhuman Persons at Science Conference

Feb 22, 2010, 17:46 ET from Loyola Marymount University

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Are dolphins nonhuman persons? Loyola Marymount University professor Thomas White insists they are. He presented his research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in San Diego on Sunday.

White, the author of "In Defense of Dolphins: The New Frontier," spoke on a panel on the "Ethical Implications of Dolphin Intelligence: Dolphins as Nonhuman Persons."  

White and other experts discussed scientific research showing that dolphins are highly intelligent, and, like humans, appear to be self-conscious, unique individuals with personalities, memories and a sense of self. They are vulnerable to pain and suffering and experience fear, dread and grief, the research suggests.

"Dolphins should be considered nonhuman persons," says White, "because they have the kind of consciousness that, in the past, we thought was unique to our species.  They're not just aware of the world around them, but they have the ability to look inside and say 'I.' They have a sense of choice and will.'"

Because of these attributes, White believes, dolphins should be given "moral standing" as individuals. Humans have always believed that moral standing as an individual entitles them to special treatment.  White says dolphins need to be treated in a similar way.

If that happens, certain human fishing practices would need to change, as would policies regarding the hundreds of captive dolphins used in entertainment facilities.

"Every year an estimated 300,000 dolphins die around the world, caught by commercial fishermen searching for tuna. Thousands more die in the annual Japanese drive hunts," says White.

White, who holds a doctorate in philosophy, is the Conrad N. Hilton Chair in Business Ethics and the director of the Center for Ethics and Business at LMU.  He has been a scientific adviser to the Wild Dolphin Project, a research organization studying a community of Atlantic spotted dolphins in the Bahamas for more than for 25 years.

He is also a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nation's Year of the Dolphin Program in 2007-08.

About Loyola Marymount University

Located between the Pacific Ocean and downtown Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University is a comprehensive university offering 53 major programs, 32 master's degrees and a doctoral degree in education from four colleges, two schools and Loyola Law School. Founded in 1911, LMU is ranked fourth in "Best Universities with Master's Programs in the West" by U.S. News & World Report. LMU is one of the largest Catholic institutions of higher education on the West Coast with nearly 5,500 undergraduate students and more than 3,000 graduate and law students. For more LMU news and events, please visit www.lmu.edu/news.

SOURCE Loyola Marymount University