On human rights for dolphins?! (Or the ethics of killing)

21:09

Don't get me wrong.
 I like dolphins as much as the next man.
Scientists and philosophers have joined together to call for a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans. The declaration, which they'd like to see enshrined in international law, would put an end to the captivity of whales and dolphins, their use in entertainment, and guarantee their right to life. According to the BBC, those calling for the declaration 'believe dolphins and whales are sufficiently intelligent to justify the same ethical considerations as humans.' Although not human, they are arguing that whales and dolphins are so intelligent that they must be considered 'people' in the philosophical sense.

The quote in the dolphin story which particularly struck me came from 'Ethics expert Prof Tom White, from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles' who said, regarding the killing of dolphins: 'A person needs to be an individual. If individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being.'

So, the ethicists are now telling us that killing a particular type of animal is the moral equivalent to killing a human being. The implication, of course, is that killing dolphins is bad. Now, I'm not arguing for the killing of dolphins (let's just clear that up before I get a reputation as a dolphin-hater), but Professor White's statement quite simply isn't true. Dolphins are not people. There is a very big difference between the killing of a dolphin and the killing of a human being.

How can I be so sure? Because the Bible says so. The book of Genesis makes clear that there is something different about man. Unlike the other creatures (including dolphins), man was made in God's image (Gen. 1:26). In fact, it's this very aspect of human beings that makes it wrong to kill a human being (Gen. 9:6). That's why there's a moral difference between killing a spider or a cow and killing a human being, because humans are made in God's image. Humans aren't animals, because God has made us with that key difference. But that also means that animals aren't people.

However, the thing that really got my attention about Prof. White's statement was that, if such arguments are accepted, then many people would be giving greater rights to dolphins than to a particular group of human beings. How could anyone possibly accord human rights to dolphins while denying human rights to unborn children?

Perhaps all the scientists and philosophers pushing for cetacean rights are also personally opposed to abortion, but even so, if society were to accept their case, we would end up with a society which is opposed to killing dolphins because of their personhood, yet in favour of aborting people. How could that possibly make sense? How could it be so morally abhorrent to kill a dolphin, but morally neutral to abort an unborn child?

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