Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 11:57 UK

Whales and dolphins - 'resource' or 'right'?

Margi Prideaux
Margi Prideaux

New research is showing that whales and dolphins possess intelligence and culture more complex that we had previously assumed, says Margi Prideaux. And, she argues, this raises anew the question of how we should relate to them - including whether it is ever right to hunt them.

Beluga with Justin Bieber
Blinded by the limits of our own imagination, historically we have found it difficult to envisage another entity with capabilities that rival our own

Despite long held preconceptions of human pre-eminence, scientists are discovering sophisticated intelligence beyond the boundaries of our own species.

It may surprise us, but dolphins and whales have such qualities.

Is it possible that 2010 could be remembered as the year when we faced our insecurities and embraced other highly evolved species, with all the responsibility that entails?

This year, which is set to be an eventful one, started with a physical clash between whalers and activists in the Southern Ocean.

Perhaps our unfulfilled anticipation of action on climate change late last year made us reach for progress somewhere else - namely biodiversity.

The confrontation between whalers and campaigners sparked a global debate about how we regard other species on the planet.

In this case, it was asked whether whales and dolphins exist as a resource for humans, or whether they have an inherent right to their life, their liberty and their home.

Meeting of minds

In February, the 2010 Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) addressed the unprecedented subject of "intelligence in dolphins: ethical and policy implications".

The SeaWorld incident raised questions about keeping orcas in captivity

A panel of three well-regarded academics discussed whether the emerging scientific knowledge about the cultural and cognitive processes of whales and dolphins should influence international policy decisions and ethical considerations for their treatment.

Their conclusions were that yes, it should.

Within days of the AAAS conference, a veteran animal trainer in the US drowned when a male orca dragged her underwater.

Surprisingly, there was not a media or public outcry against the whale itself.

Instead, attention was focused on the appropriateness of keeping this mighty, complex and intelligent species captive for human entertainment.

In March, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) met to discuss the details of a "deal" about the future of whaling activities.

The global discussion then erupted into sharp debate, with some favouring a return to whaling, and others saying such a precedent should never again be set.

Governments in both camps suddenly found themselves under significant pressure from their constituencies, and the political dance for positions began.

Perhaps it is time for us to decide that we believe whales and dolphins do have a right to their lives, their liberty and the protection of their home and family

At the same time, The Cove - a documentary investigating the annual slaughter of more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises around Japan - unexpectedly received the Academy Award for Best Documentary 2010, mainstreaming another example of our need to confront our relationship with these species.

By the end of March, a Los Angeles restaurant was closing its doors as a self-imposed penalty for serving whalemeat.

In late April, an unprecedented US Congressional oversight hearing was held to review the education and conservation value of keeping marine mammals in captivity.

The hearing came about through a convergence of important events, including the orca incident, public uproar about the link between the dolphin drive hunts in Japan and the international zoo and aquaria industry, and a timely regulatory review process.

April also marked the second major oil spill in six months seriously to threaten habitats of whale and dolphin populations in different parts of the world.

Setting the agenda

With four eventful months behind us, we now look towards the IWC meeting in June where governments will formally consider the proposal that could usher in the return to whaling.

This meeting will, in some ways, conclude the six-month conversation and set the tone for our relationship with these animals for decades to come.

Whalemeat dish in Iceland
The future of whaling is on the menu at this year's IWC meeting

Will our consideration of whales and dolphins be based on numerical calculations of abundance, or will we recognise them as highly evolved mammals living in complex societies?

The fact that discussion is even taking place indicates we are on the road towards a position of respect.

Many whale and dolphin researchers now agree that they are studying sophisticated, evolved intelligences, born of a differently constructed sense of self; without necessarily needing to be an "intellect" directly comparable to ours.

We now understand that dolphins and whales, in various different ways, have distinct personalities and identities; that they can think about the future, and have the innate ability to learn language.

Much of whale and dolphin behaviour is cultural, learned and passed down through generations.

They have complex decision-making and communications structures, and an independent evolution of social learning and cultural transmission appropriate to the radically different environment they live in.

Decision time

Blinded by the limits of our own imagination, historically we have found it difficult to envisage another entity with capabilities that rival our own.

It has been our own insecurity that impedes our recognition of the impact of our actions on animals that society could otherwise regard as having moral significance.

In so many ways, they are as complex as we are.

Southern Ocean clash
Clashes in the Southern Ocean have stirred debate

Acknowledging that at least some animals are "beyond use" brings forward implications spanning philosophy, law, science and policy.

However, the evidence suggests that a challenge to the status quo is the next logical step.

No-one is suggesting that whales and dolphins be granted a right to vote, to hold a driver's licence, or to receive a free and fair education.

But in this short half-year we have had enough examples posed to evoke a deep and thoughtful global conversation about our collective moral compasses.

Perhaps it is time for us to decide that we believe whales and dolphins do have a right to their lives, their liberty and the protection of their home and family.

Or will we return to a world that accepts whaling? Will whales and dolphins, like the orca in the US marine park, continue to circle pools for our entertainment?

The choice is ours to make.

Margi Prideaux is strategic policy director for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) International

The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental issues running weekly on the BBC News website

Do you agree with Margi Prideaux? Do whales and dolphins display signs of sophisticated intelligence and complex culture? If so, should that change our relationship with them? In particular, does it proscribe hunting them and keeping them in captivity?

Imagine for a moment if we as homosapiens had a more intelligent, natural predator that brutally slaughtered us for pleasure. Would pro-whaling supporters like having a harpoon fired into them then being hacked into pieces while they are still conscious? Humankind has achieved many staggering accomplishments in the short time we have existed so far. But they way we treat ourselves and other living creatures shows perfectly just how juvenile a species we are, and far we still have left to go. The planet may end up being a very lonely place for our children...
Ben, Aldershot

Firstly, I do not doubt that dolphins and whales, like many other species, have very complex social structure and high 'intelligence'. 'evolved' intelligence simply means neural structure specialized toward a certain purpose, and two species do not necessarily share that purpose, even if they both have brains or are both mammals. The purpose may also change over the course of evolution. It is true that human intelligence is unique, as shows in our active modulation of our niche in the world. But dolphin intelligence may as well be unique in other aspects. Because our brains are different we may never know the full extent of their consciousness. Their brains can do things our brain can't , for a start: alternate wakefulness of left and right side of the brain. So to say 'intelligent or not' is extremely simplistic. Secondly, I would like to argue that?'intelligence' is a rather strange criterion for not killing an animal for food, and even if it were I struggle to imagine where the threshold would have to lie. Third, if someone has a problem with whale and dolphin hunting they should, if they do not wish to be a hypocrite, condemn the hunting and slaughter of many other animals for food or other reasons, whether they believe the 'intelligence argument' is ethically justified or not.
Florence, Tokyo, Japan, Japan

It's ok, we'll only hunt the stupid ones.
Alex, Tokyo, Japan

My hesrt is grieved and very saddened at the amount of effort people are going too to save the whales. Yes I love animals and they portray an amazing creator. Actually everything in this world displays such intricate detail and are masterpieces in design. I would love to see this amazing effort of saving whales to be considered in saving HUMANS. We seem to give a blind eye to the little lives that are aborted everyday....the intricate masterpiece of a person so amazingly created....just like you or I. We don't even blink at what we are actually doing. the value we put on animals and creation far out weighs the value of human beings. My heart is that we re-evaluate the importance of life and have an understanding that humans are meant to be valued and loved far above anything else. Yes there needs to be a balance in the whaling industry but why doesn't the government decide to put a stop to killing humans and find other stratergies in saving these lives instead of the easy option?
Lewina Stewart, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

What troubles me is the inconstancy of variable standards--don't eat whales/dolphins/great apes because of their intelligence; don't eat dogs and cats and bunnies because they're our companions, but wait, lots of folks eat dogs and bunnies... I hope that we can, as a step to a more compassionate world, at the very least recognize that perhaps the only true distinct quality about humans is that those of us who can afford to can make choices. Choose to eat no animals at all. Too radical? How about choose to recognize that some of the food we eat are living beings, treat them with compassion and kindness while alive, kill them "humanely," and truly be grateful that they--our fellow planet dwellers--provide sustenance? I too am concerned about the endangered "intelligent" species. But what about all the other not-so-intelligent ones? What about our own hypocrisy and arrogance in mandating what creatures should and shouldn't be eaten? How about some humility, gratitude and awe?
Vita, Santa Rosa, Calif. USA

We can't even treat our own kind with this level of respect so I don't hold out a lot of hope for the Whales and Dolphins.
Kate, Adelaide, Australia

I can't remember the last time I've read such a load of namby-pamby, wooly-minded nonsense. What evidence is there that they are as intelligent as us and that they feel pain and loss as greatly as we do? Incredibly simple creatures such as bees can give the illusion of intelligence whereas really they are just following a few basic hard-coded instructions in their tiny brains. As for mammals, I believe that they feel pain and a few basic emotions such as fear but I think it is a huge leap to attribute them with conscious thought. The truth is that none of us can know what goes on inside another mammal's head but if we are happy to eat cows, pigs and sheep as I am, then what problem can we possibly have with cultures that like to eat whale meat (provided it is from a non-endangered species)? How would we like it if Hindus started using "direct action" to stop us eating beef?
Ian Moore, Southampton, UK

I wouldn't eat whales or dolphins - just as I wouldn't eat a Chimpanzee.
Billah, Albuquerque, NM, USA

animals > humans
Stephanie, Fresno, CA

What Margi Prideaux explains in this article is nothing new, it is something people who have had direct contact with or researched whales and dolphins, have known for a number of decades. However it is until now that the global community begins to wake up from this dream that we humans are the only intelligent life form, and that intelligence is something that cannot be placed under just one label, "Human Intelligence", there are different kinds of intelligence all molded by the environments that we were bron into, so obviously we cannot have the same capabilites, cetaceans who live in the great oceans and humans who live on land. Hopefully if the global community does reach an agreement on stopping all whaleing, we will leave the dolphins and whales clean oceans to live in, for we know how well most humans take care of their planet.
Marcel Arvizu, Pasadena, California, U.S.A.

Every living creature, irrespective of usefulness or intelligence, has an irrefutable right to life, safety and freedom - from hunger, abuse and everything in between - humans have no right to decide who lives or who dies - and no rights or privileges greater than the other creatures, who share the planet with and sustain us. It is the basis of the fine tuned, and complex web of life.
Aditi raychoudhury, Oakland,ca

Whales and Dolphins may have rights, but what about the millions of krill, plankton and fish that Whale and Dolphin mindlessly slaughter every year in their selfish pursuit of not wanting to be hungry? Don't those animals have rights, too?!
Steve, Manchester

I reckon there are many many human beings with less intelligence or culture than the average whale or dolphin. Why not turn them into a source of protein ?
Nick, South Africa

I agree that whales/dolphins have an intellect beyond assumption.. but I'm afraid I find its conclusion somewhat random. Slavery - to return to something both human and ignored by the western world - was not justified on the basis of the slaves being ignorant.. in fact the Greek ideas surrounding the treatment of the Helots (especially within Sparta) were often centralised about the slavery of them being good for them.. it was treated as an educational process. Of course, this is different.. we assume that they're not learning off us and would be so much better in the wild etc etc… But I am afraid the logical conclusion isn't far from the Greek one.. all this will mean will be zoos renamed to 'nature reserves'.. which will simply be more space and the animals will likely be studied at an advanced level rather than simply there to swim circles.
William Slyfield, Derbyshire, England

I completely agree with this article. Underwater sonar, explosions and other devices have caused massive disruption and damage in ways we cannot begin to know. Over fishing on an industrial scale has caused damage to bio-diversity and to the delicate eco-sytems of the oceans that the human race has little understanding of. Drilling for oil and other fossil fuels has caused destruction and devastation on an enormous scale and it seems we will not stop until it has all run out and we become engineers of human and the biosphere's destruction. Humans - intelligent - I don't think so! Perhaps the other species don't want us to understand what they are communicating. Maybe it isn't very complimentary about us, and I for one wouldn't blame them!
Karen Varga, Nr Stratford on Avon, UK

we are not gods and have a responsibility not only to all living creatures that we share this planet with but also the planet itself. This should always be of prime importance as it supports all life - ours included. Respect for living creatures is paramount.
sue corfield, shropshire, england

I agree to a certain extnent, but at the end of the day, has it not always been survival of the fittest? If we had not evolved to this complxity, something else would of and it would treat us no differently, however at the same time I do think that as the most advanced species on the planet we do have some innate responsibility to care for other species, but nothing in this world is free, we cannot have it every way, and for anyone arguing that there is enough vegetables for us to eat, what gives them any less right to life than an animal
Harry Fuge, Portsmouth

I am very confused about animals life because some people says to save them and does'nt allow to eat also but some in vice-versa,so i want to ask which decesion will be right and whom opinion we have to follow.If you allow me to write some thing then I will write that what Allah (God) allowed to eat us,we have to use them for eat and what din't premit by Allah,take care them because he is our creature and he knows what is better for us and what is wrong.
Mohammad Shekaib Alam, Malaysia/India

Quite frankly intellegence is irrelevant (although how typical of the human race to assume no other living creature could ever have intellegence as 'superior' as ours) What this boils down to is saving creatures that were here long before us, before the human race's ignorance and arrogance destroys everything!One of the previous comment saying 'when was the last time a dolphin sent anyone to the moon' backs up everything I said. How dare anybody challenge our intellect hey?? At the end of the day ALL species deserve their rightful place on earth irrespective of size, intellegence, beauty or any other category. They also deserve the right to live in their NATURAL habitat, not kept in glorified swimming pools or tanks!Good onh the whale at many more before we realise?
Melissa Tunmore, England

It appears that the main benficiary of hunting whales and other cetations is the gourmets of land of the rising sun. It is time that we stamped on their deceiving excuse of 'research' to hunt ANY of these creatures. It is for GREED NOT NEED that this nation pushes for the free resumption of hunting these intelligent creatures. The detention of these creatures in Aquaria where they are used to provide entertainment is totally abhorent too and should be banned. The excuse of 'scientific research' here is equally specious and hides the profiteering aspect of this practice. These creatures are entitled to live free of human predation.
Ted Warren, Weston-super-mare, Somerset, England

When Al from Stirling quoted Douglas Adams he is exactly right. Notice there aren't any comments from Japan here. We already know that their claim that their whaling is for 'scientific' purposes is fictional. Tribal whaling is a tough one though, but it's very restricted, and it's not done with the hysterical enthusiam demonstrated by some countries.
Al, Seattle, Seattle, US

You either eat meat or you don't. I think that it would take us humans a few thousand if not tens of thousands of years to evolve from our omnivorous roots and become herbivores. In the mean time, individuals should have the right to determine which animals, if any, they choose to eat. Conservation and animal cruelty would be a good yardstick on which to base these decisions, but beautiful and majestic? Give me a break. When will those who are bent on imposing their arbitrary views and values upon others ever learn? It's as if you cherish diversity in the non-human world but want only your view to prevail in the human. Get a grip.
Hiroshi, Yokohama, Japan

An over-due decision. Time to stop teaching them tricks, and start learning their language.
Kiteman, Eastest Anglia

I do always find these things interesting, as no one seems to mention that we are the top of the food chain and have the luxury of being able to make all the decision, its not whether they are abit more intellegent it the fact that through natural selection we are in charge quite frankly we can do what we want. Thats not to mean just be nasty to everything. In doing alot of these things we are not looking at the big picture which is us and our survival, a thriving echo system on land and in perticular in the oceans is massivley important as Star Trek relicators haven't been invented yet so we can't magic food out of thin air as yet. This is the the same for fossils fuel and really all of our planets resources. What we need is not for people to look at everything as individual topics and more in a sustanable globle plan to guarantee the continuation of our species, much of which suffers while we give money to protect wild life instead of our children. Once we deal with that we will truely have the luxury of looking at these little individual topics properly, though on the road to doing it we may well find we have dealt with this sort of thing already.
John Perkins, Bournemouth

Humans just lost their hunting license whether we know it or not and their right to decide the outcome of a very grave extinction event unless an abrupt u-turn occurs in how the environment is treated happens and happens fast. Baleen Whales in the Arctic may live to close to 200yrs with some found with ivory and stone points in them not used since the 1880s. Dolphins are washing ashore in Gulf of Mexico clearly destroyed in a horrible way by the affects of oil yet drilling is still set for Arctic waters. People need to respect their elders and that includes creatures who have lived with their families and in conjunction with Nature long enough to see the affects of things like a third rise in ocean acidity.
Dale Lanan, Longmont, Colorado, USA

all i can say is if humans are the intelligent species,then all liveing animals should be saved because we have the choice not to eat them,we have options,but pete tangradee who thinks because we are at the top of the food chain,we can eat everything below us,because we went the moon,is so narrow minded,we can survive on veg,nuts,etc,not anything that moves,the sea is in a terribble state of depletion,and it aint getting any better,and as for land animals,they are just in as bad a state
alan, edinburgh

The tone of the article wasn't strong enough and came from an angle that suggested any other alternative than to leave them alone and respect their intelligence could even be conveived as okay. Not okay! The plan to close the HUMP restaurant came from me and a friend in DC. I promoted The Cove all last year. Can you choose your next breath, I can't! Dolphins can. So how much more conscious are you when you decide in every moment to live or die. Enough said. And if it isn't enough show every child you ever meet The Cove and put an end to the slave trade and the accompanying slaughter once and for all. The more children you show and the more children they show it to and the more we keep that going, the sooner this will all end. In ancient Greece is was punishable by death to kill a dolphin. They were known to save humans. Consciously! Have we gone backwards with our knowledge. Let's not do it again. If you can get your ass down the IWC and make yourself seen and heard, it could make a difference. One person can make a difference and if you don't believe it's you get behind someone else who is doing it the right way for the right purpose. How do you know who is doing it the right way for the right purpose? You know because everything they say is about their message. Not about them. Not about what they are trying to sell!!!
Larry David Eudene, Malibu, CA

Taste like chicken :-)
Michael Keilman, Raleigh, NC

Keep spending billions of dollars searching for intelligent life in the cold dark recesses of the universe while we obliterate the life found on this planet. Intelligent or not whales are an incredibly majestic creature as are dolphins and every living thing... This article definitely misses the point that many before me have made, that is we need to reevaluate our position as apex predator and the arrogance that is synonymous with it.
Colin Childers, USA/Planet Earth

C'mon, now we start thinking about whales. Why make them better than other animals? What makes you think a cow is a stupid machine of producing milk. Our live is a race. Eather we begin to live in harmony with a planet and all become vegetarians, or we go on killing. The question is if we kill for eating, or for some ambitious goals, like having a snake leather bag or ivory necklace. You know, choosing whales and dolphins to protect is like concidering if black/native americans/jews are people.
Irina, Russia

No animal life should be used as a resource by humans. Utilize the plants which God gave us.
Kengele Haribuse, Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA

If things are to be based on intelligence then people should look at all animals, humans included.

If the average human IQ is 100, then for every 'clever' person at 130+, there is also someone who is incapable of making informed decisions, these people are certainly less intelligent than a 'clever' crow, dog or dolphin. Yet I doubt whether this view will ever be accepted as, like many other sensible views, eg the world is overpopulated compared to resources and this is the ONLY real question to address for the future wellbeing of humanity, it doesn't fit in with big business or our parochial governments.
Fred Dawlanen, Wigan UK

I agree completely! I have interacted with wild dolphins in several places around the world and so I know that it is not only their intelligence but their behavior towards us that merits their protection and recognition. Wild dolphins are the rare - perhaps unique - example of a truly wild animal that, of its own accord, approaches humans for interaction and play without coercion or food reward. They approach us with great trust when they initiate interactions as these. We should return it in kind, behaving towards them in a way that honors that trust. Wild dolphins are the exceptional creature that reaches out across the species divide to tell us that Nature is NOT uncaring of humans. They show us that the Natural world offers a trusting playmate. We should take that cue and stop treating dolphins - or any other animal as mere resources - but as the individuals they are. As Prof White suggested at the AAAS conference mentioned in this article, we should consider cetaceans as non human 'persons! Not only because of their intelligence and culture - but because of their regard toward us.
Chisa Hidaka, MD, New York City, NY, USA

I definitely agree that whales and dolphins are too intelligent to be treated like they are, but also agree with most of the comments saying how hypocritical it is just to protect these; pigs have been shown to be as intelligent as dogs and in some cases as intelligent as some of the great apes; elephants suffer in captivity such as zoos and circuses because of their intelligence, memory and comple social lives etc. etc. we need to protect all the animals which show such signs of intelligence, although beginning with whales and dolphins is a start.
Rachael Cooper, Preston, UK

Pete from Tandragee: why does sending people to the moon give us an automatic right to kill species that do not send individuals to the moon? What has the moon got to do with it?
Hairy Dan, Brighton. UK

I agree with Ms. Prideaux but am skeptical that the cruelty that humans direct at animals and each other will decline noticeably before we inevitably destroy ourselves.
JP, Atlanta, GA, USA

Whilst dolphins, whales and other animals likely do not possess the same intelligence and self-awareness of most adult humans, it is easy to provide examples of humans (e.g young children, severely mentally disabled people) who we still give many basic rights to that many animals could be considered more intelligent than. If you judge someone not by their actual attributes and abilities, but by a single irrelevant fact such as skin colour, sex, or sexuality, then you are racist, sexist, or homophobic. If you judge someone not by their actual attributes and abilities but merely by being a member of a particular species, then you are being speciesist.
Matt, London, UK

Yes, I whole-heartedly agree with Ms Prideaux.
Mark Farrell, Exeter, UK

It's ironic that we should go into such depth regarding ethical conduct for whales and dolphins when we can't even take care of our selves.
Kristian Stewart, Cambridge, UK

Whales and Dolphins - most people are lumping them together... but they're quite different. Toothed whales (incl dolphins, orcas and sperm whales) are the intelligent ones, social with detailed communication. Conversely baleen whales are majestic and huge but probably similar to domestic cattle in terms of intelligence. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME.
Thylacine, Liverpool, UK

I absolutely with Margi Prideaux. It is 2010, we have enough information that tells us that hunting these creatures is an abomination. We also know that using them for entertainment is clearly NOT educational and serves only to make corporations richer on the suffering of these highly intelligent mammals. Stop these atrocities against whale, leave them in the sea, don't kill them, don't use them for "research" and free the whales in captivity, now.
Sarah May Grunwald, Genzano di Roma Italy

Neither 'resource' or 'right' but rather fellow citizens of spaceship Earth. Leave them alone, and keep their oceans from being destroyed. The ocean is a 'resource' and it is 'right' to keep it from being destroyed.
Kurt Olsen, Honolulu, HI

"Capabilities that rival our own"? This is pure rubbish. When was the last time the dolphins sent someone to the moon? People are generally the top of the food chain. That means we are entitled to eat whatever is below us. That's what Mother Nature intended. There is certainly an argument for preserving an endangered species, but dolphin and whales' rights? Get a grip. What's next, a requirement for employers to hire a certain number of dolphins?
Pete, Tandragee

The more we learn about whales and dolphins, the more the aquariums and whale shows sound to me like modern day bear-baiting.
Amy, Vancouver

Yes, fully agree. Let's change what is within our powers, I am ashamed what we will once tell our kids...
Lorenz, Vienna/Austria

To take a side step in this discussion (where I'm glad to see that everyone agrees with Ms Prideaux), the more pressing need in cetacean conservation is the need to protect their habitat and food sources. We've known for some time now that fish stocks have dwindled to dangerously low levels, and that the marine food chain is collapsing. Just think of the impact on the cetaceans - and other marine mammals - if fish, krill etc are depleted entirely by mid-21st century as many scientists (and the UN, finally!) predict. It's not only time to stop whaling and keeping cetaceans in captivity, more importantly it's the time that each of us change our eating habits and leave the few remaining fish to the marine predators.
Joanna, The Netherlands

Ahah! so now we question whether it is right to abuse/hunt/capture/eat intelligent/social creatures. I know what we could do - we could devise a set of IQ tests for creatures and if they fail we could abuse/hunt/capture/eat them with a clear conscience. If they pass we must endeavour to learn their language and apologise for past wrongs and then apologise for using the seas as out dustbins.... hmm, that should do the trick.....or we could simply learn to respect all of our fellow creatures (yes we are nothing more than creatures ourselves)look after our shared planet and stop making ridiculous points based on how much like us certain creatures are and how that merits our good will.
Mr Underhill, Countryside

I agree with MArgi Prideaux. I think, we should end up with human arrogance and ignorance! Why shouldn´t there be other creatures with intelligence? Hopefully people of IWC stop thinking about killing...
S. Gobel, Berlin, Germany

I'd like to agree with Ms. Prideaux, but the evidence so far is not so compelling. Haven't read this article yet, but most whale intelligence papers have been thin on substance, long on wishful thinking. Conservation issues alone should be sufficient to protect whales, regardless of their mental capacities.
G.Curt Fiedler, Tokyo, Japan

I just wonder how disturbed we have made these animals. What are the last cries they scream out when brutally slaughtered...
Riikka Ketola, Turku, Finland

This conversation is absurd. Not because I believe that we should be slaughtering whales and dolphins... I don't. But the premise that inteligence (or how cute, or how cuddly, or how whatever) should be the criteria used to decide which of the creatures on this planet are deserving of "special" protections. A dolphin is no more intrinsically deserving of life than a dog, goat, guppie, amoeba, carrot, radish, stinging nettle, or human (etc, etc, etc). Living Beings all require the death of other Living Beings for their own continued existence. The moral/ethical question should be is it strictly necesary for this creature to die for me to continue to live. Until we begin to address this fundamental question, we're just blowin smoke.
Steve Garrison, Bellingham USA

This article has absolutely ZERO evidence about the intelligence of whales or dolphins. You've taken a question that can be addressed in one sentence, and dressed it up to take an entire article. Lazy journalism at its best. How about some FACTS?
Brett M, Phoenix, AZ, USA

Whilst I agree with Margi Prideaux and the fundamentals that Whales & Dolphins should be treated as sentinel beings as they possess the ability of self-recognition and to live in complex family structures. I could dream of nothing better than 2010 being the year we finally woke up to the fact that we are not alone here on Earth, that there are other intelligent lifeforms right here already. The reality of the fact is that the Japanese will be going south again to conduct their "research", whilst their fellow brothers are slaughtering dolphins in Taiji. The Norweigians and Icelandic fleets will set sail and sadly most of the worlds population will sit back and comment on how bad it is without actually standing up and doing something about it.
Gary Stokes, Hong Kong

Why should we protect just those animals who are considered "beautiful" and "majestic"? They are not the animals who feel pain, suffering, and loss. Yet they are the ones everybody rushes to protect. Has anyone suggested we treat pigs with the dignity their intelligence deserves? Not recently at least. No one has jumped on the band wagon to protect the "ugly" animals. Its rather hypocritical if you ask me. I am not advocating we stop eating animals, I enjoy bacon as much as the next person. What needs to happen is regulation. Oh what a dirty word, regulation. Hunting licenses and quotas are a strong way to insure over-hunting does not happen, but still allows for people to eat the animals they chose.
Alexis Lund, Glendive, Montana, USA

I m a marine scientist who has been engaged with the business of the IWC for 60 years. I entirely agree with all Margi's points. Unfortunately nwhat is happening now therein promises to put us back many years to the time of no science, whales are just things to be mined.
Sidney Holt, Paciano(PG), Italy

Putting this type of animals rights chicanery into the category of "environmental" issues or any sort of scientific category is what makes it difficult for people to take real environmental issues, like climate change, seriously.
Ron, Bristol

Why stop with whales and dolphins? What about Apes, cattle, elephants, or crows? Does an animal need to have so-called 'intelligence' for humans to assume ethical standards of conduct towards it? Then what about frogs? Let there be intelligent whales and dolphins if it helps to save whales and dolphins. But let intelligent humans realize that intelligence is narrowly defined and of dubious value in assessing our conduct toward any form of life.
Shermin de Silva, U.S.A./Sri Lanka

Remarkable studies have been done by John Lilly in in Man and Dolphins ; and The Mind of Dolphins. Carl Sagan wrote in The Dragons of Eden (Speculation on the evolution of Human Intelligence),about the brain to body weight ratios that determine intelligence. Cetations have had a greater brain to body weight ratios for 70 million years. Homosapiens = Us? at best two thousand years. Societal intellects tell us; where are their libraries?, architecture,and museums, and that it is anthropomorphic to think of them as willfully intelligent creatures because they have happen to evolve in a different medium , and are perfectly suited as sophisticated communicators and phycicists using echolocation as a actual tool and as communication in an aqueous environment. Their harmonious evolution has left them using their gift as a tool for development, and survial rather than for destruction. Who in the hell do we think we are, determining once again what form of existence is progress and which will prevail.
mark hamilton, san diego ca usa

We still have a long way to go in our treatment of other humans.
Sam, Hilo, Hawai'i

Yes I completely agree with Margi, there is no doubt in my mind that whales and dolphins are intelligent and majestic. This is true for all animals, and we as humans have no right to exploit these beautiful creatures to the point of extinction just to make a quick buck. I think there are cultures out there who do not see the natural world with the respect it deserves and that is a scary thought. I think the other issue is gutless governments refusing to take a stand on these issues because they are scared it will be bad for trade or the economy, while on the other hand saying they are dedicated to climate they not understand without a healthy ocean, you cannot have a healthy world...its all related, and it will come back to bite us when we do nothing. Nature will eventually win, and we will lose...and we will have deserved it.
Gemma Thornton, Sydney, Australia

Agree! Yes, they display sentience, sapience, and cultural traditions! I believe our relationship with them IS changing ... I am HOPING that it changes fast enough globally wide to allow a shared path to the future. In particular: hunting, imprisoning, eating, isolating, degrading, ..., forcing them to perform for our entertainment, ..., separating them from their families, ..., is just WRONG!
osmia, Sunny Okanagan, BC, Canada

I would dearly love to believe that there are reasoning, communicating intelligent beings outside our own species, right here on Earth, and to extend them every legal protection. However: it is scientifically inaccurate to credit all whale & dolphin species with the same high intelligence (equal or even superior to humans), and with complex societies and cultures. Despite decades of study, nobody has managed to translate any cetacean vocalisations into human language, or to prove that their songs have much greater information content than those of birds. The largest whales, for one thing, have a grazing lifestyle - feeding on fish or krill as cattle feed on grass - which gives little evolutionary pressure for the development of advanced minds. Evolution does not build in excess. Toothed whales, especially dolphins, have a more intellectually demanding way of life, as did our primitive ancestors. If they have evolved bonafide language and a sense of history, though, would they not have learned by now to avoid the locations where they are regularly slaughtered, such as Japan?
Nicholas Wordsworth, Leeming, UK

Not only do I agree, but I think her sentiments should be applied more liberally to all animals. It is clear that cows, pigs, turkeys and chickens and fish also have intelligence, rich family lives and complex social structures. All animals should be protected from cruelty and the threat of being turned into food.
Garrett Mize, Austin, TX USA

Certain species of whales had a near global communication system (because their speech in low frequencies travels very well underwater) before we even existed as modern humans. Millions of years ago if intelligent life came to this planet and wanted to speak to the dominant intelligence it would have been Cetaceans, not our ancestors, they would want to speak to. Currently we can not decipher most of how Cetaceans communicate. This leads me to believe that their is major advancements in the understanding of their grammar we have left to figure out. Is it a geometric form of grammar like sign language instead of a temporal form like our vocal languages, or something even less intuitive? Considering how specialized our brains our for communication, and that we've started to crack the vocabulary of other more human like species, I would consider it a very tragic loss if we could never understand what whale songs mean.
Athen Ananda , LostInThought

Nobody has the right to kill these majestic, intelligent animals, yes, but then what gives us the right to kill other animals, such as cows and pigs, for similar purposes? The Japanese eat whales, like Westerners eat red meat. The Japanese kill whales, just like the Westerners slaughter their farm animals. So the level of intelligence of these animals allows us to decide which animals can be killed and which cannot? Stop killing animals for food. It's not like we live in such harsh conditions that prevent us from growing vegetables for us to eat. We're eating meat for luxury. We won't die not eating meat. It's definitely right to be against whaling, but right now we are very much the hypocrite. Perhaps once we eradicate all cruelty of animals on our side, we can start poking our heads into other societies with more pride and righteous purpose.
Kaoru Kodama, London, UK

Those who support whaling have much in common with the conclusions to be drawn from this article. Both are no-brainers! Great to see WDCS going from strength to strength and shame on those others within the NGO community who are reportedly negotiating a deal to allow SOME whaling. Just what gives YOU the right to condone the brutal death of even a single animal? Finally, don't forget the porpoises guys. always the forgotten member of the family!
Nic Davies, Isle of Mull, Scotland

Tyler Marie, Lacey WA

If the recent and even the past advances in zoology have shown us anything it is that our concepts of animals and their levels of intelligence can be proved wrong. Recent studies have shown advanced tool use in from the great apes, i.e the use of spears by chimpanzees in Senegal, the fact that dolphins are capable of language and even names, as well as emotion. In short we can not look upon life on earth in the black and white terms of humanity, we look upon ourselves as a basis to compare other species. If they are not human they are of no consequence, as a species we are unique yet we have to acknowledge that other intelligent species are also uniqie. The same yet differnt in ways beyond explaination. Absolutely we should treat these beings with the respect that they deserve, as we are ourselves would to be treated, within reason.
Aaron Mulhern, Belfast

I agree. I think is a shame we even have to argue about giving animals their right to live. It is obvious they have the right to live in their ecosystems, and it is us who have to adapt to it. I don't mean this in an extreme way of saying, but in a way that we haven't for decades, shown any respect to animals, and neither for life itself. This happens even with the forests. I think we should be re-educated in this matter and we should learn that all kinds of life are to be loved and respected! I have always found hard to believe that people go to jail because the murder other people, but what about those who kill animals and trees? aren't they also killing a life? That's just my point of view, but I think is should be important that life is consider no matter in which way, it is what it is: LIFE.
Aryana, Buenos Aires, Argentina

We just need more corn, wheat, etc., crops. The complexities of measuring intelligence are an exercise in avoidance. Less rapaciousness is in order, in so many ways.
habrow2, petaluma, cal., usa

Humans are the least intelligent form of life on this planet, pretty soon we will realize this. Dolphins or any other form of life doesn't care what we "think". They're only thoughts, and in actuality is what seperates us from life.
lgndsgn, Plano, US

I find it ironic that, we look for life / intelligence amongst the stars, but, we can't see it on our own planet. Even, as we see that intelligence enjoys the joke of the slash zone as much as the audience. (Yes, I was soaked at marine wold.)
SyD Standen, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Don't all things suffer? Why should any animal have to pass an IQ test to be able to join our 'club' (as if being human exempts anyone or anything from human cruelty)? How do we know that 'dumb' animals don't suffer as much as a whale or dolphin or human baby? Why not be healthier, help the planet, stop consuming animals and stop abusing them in the name of 'science' and other pursuits which help rationalize our bestial behaviour?
John Olson, San Francisco USA

Let me start by saying that I do not advocate the killing of whales. However, how does one decide which animals should not be killed? I realize that many would say that the answer is none, and that it is never OK to kill another living species. But Prideaux suggests that the high intelligence of cetaceans is reason enough for us to protect them. As others have referenced, what about monkeys? How about pigs, which seem like feeling animals. It seems plausible to say that all animals experience pain. With that said, we must advocate one way or the other. Either, it's fair game to kill any animal, or it's never OK in any circumstance.
Robert Mills, Rigmarole, Washington

Of course, I totally agree with Margi Prideaux. Whales and dolphins truly are sophisticated evolved sentient beings. We have to get over speciesism paradigm that recognise human species as the "superior" And I give you this Alice Wlaker quote: "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men."
Pablo Cubos, Ciudad de México, México

Animals as a whole are a lot more intelligent than humans give them credit for, a lot of this appears to be because the animal scientists who look at animal behaviour have never owned a pet, if they had they'ed soon realise how intelligent they were and that they have similar emotions to humans. I have a dog that uses mirrors to keep an eye on me to see what I'm doing when she isn't looking directly at me.
Stephen, St. Ives, England

I do agree that dolphins & whales have high intelligence and should be respected. I doubt they are the only species whose intelligence we have severely underestimated. With that said, I see a mentality that ALL life should be treated with respect. I think that's a great mentality to have, but it's not exactly functional. I'd like to point out that the food chain is a fundamental part of Earth life. Life can't continue to exist without death. We are omnivores. We eat a wide variety of plants and animals and our variety in diet has played a key role in the survival of our species. Killing for food is necessary and you and I are alive because of it. So, yes. Let's try to be as respectful of other creatures (especially intelligent ones) as is humanly possible. But life and death are inextricably connected and that's not something we can change. Such is Earth.

The questioning about whether we should classify them as sentient and therefore stop hunting them is fairly ridiculous, since we consider ourselves sentient and spend billions of dollars hunting each other.
Wayne, Providence US

It is obvious that whales and dolphins are intelligent. It is also obvious that many humans are not intelligent, yes they have the manual dexterity to physically pick things up, like a pint glass or TV remote, but the average human does not possess discriminate thought or the ability to take action.
mr Philips,

Whaling is the stuborn residue of times long gone when humans were fewer and struggled to survive in competition with other species. Now that our numbers have increased, we are responsible for the survival of other species. Some of us even recognize all species are GOD blessed.
Camina Tripodi, Arroyo Grande California USA

The only ones who can disagree with this report are the greed people who only ever think of profit(perhaps they are all Ferengi).These people who still want to hunt,kill and capture these creatures are the true morons of the human race and I wonder if they even have any self respect as they certainly do not have it for anything else.
Michael McIver, Hastings England

we don't need to search for life on other planets when we already share our own with so many as yet ,little understood other amazing species. what an excellent & insightful article .
katie sabry, limassol , cyprus

Brilliantly written article! It shows how much has been going on in the past few months. It brings hope to see our attitudes towards these amazing animals changing. A crucial time has arrived in which difficult decisions need to be made. Starting in June with the IWC meeting. It would be a disgrace for humanity if the whaling ban was lifted. Let's keep making our voices heard for whales and dolphins and their ethical treatment. A few weeks ago I had the honour of seeing hundreds of dolphins and whales in the wild. We need to look after them, we need to respect them, we need to let them be and be free! May this indeed be the year in which everything changes for good for whales and dolphins!!
Carina Vonk, UK

Isn't it about time for people to start to appreciate the intelligence and importance of these amazing animals. The idea of keeping marine mammals in captivity is abhorent, and is just another example of the arrogance and cruelty of the human race, there is no educational value to be gained and is purely a money generating excercise. I hope that in some parallel universe humans are taken from their home and put in a tiny room, kept there for the rest of their lives and made to do tricks by cestacian trainers (who will probably say they really love those in their custody). Anyone who has been lucky enough to observe whales and dolphins in the wild undoubtly are aware of this higher intelligence these animals posess, and their right to be free.Everyone should watch "The Cove" and it should be put onto the school curriculum.
Tony Bright, Wells, England

With whales and dolphins exhibiting an intelligence that is comparable to ours, it makes sense that we should respect their habitat and their right to live. Regardless of the intelligence of a species, humans can be responsible for either the destruction or survival of any species on earth. It is our responsibility, as the dominant species on earth, to protect wildlife regardless of their intelligence. The fact that whales and dolphins are so complex intellectually only furthers our incentives to protect their kind.
Aric, Brussels, Belgium

Why would be that only intelligent animals should be treated in this way? There is no point in saving these animals if we are only to continue plundering the sea of all natural resources and fish stocks. Surely we need to take a long hard look at our actions as a species and respect and treat all the other animals and plants that share this planet with more respect, after all, it is no more out planet than theres, a natural requires a certain balance to exist. There is no doubt that these majestic creatures should be treated with more respect that getting them to jump through hoops, but sadly, the same could be said about a much much wider group of animals.
Scott Hadden, Cheshire, UK

Agreed, totally!
Rahul, Chennai & India

To fully appreciate the extent of dolphin and whale intelligence, merely look at an MRI of their brain. As sophisticated and large (if not more so!) than a human brain.
Ryan, US

Disagree. And good luck telling everyone that it's OK to only eat animals that you consider "stupid".

The justification for hunting Dolphins and Whales becomes weaker and weaker the more research that is done into the affair. It is disgusting that in this day and age of reason and understanding such primitive, unwarranted and barbaric practises continue. Cetacean meat serves no purpose, is often sold at a loss rather than a profit, is not sustainable and most right thinking nations DO NOT WANT IT.
Kurt Wylde, Brighton

Rather than commenting on the article itself this comment is more in response to the above comments, which I agree with about protecting both species, I would like to ask exactly what qualifies Whales and Dolphins as having "culture" comparable to humans? Even if you rightly accept that such creatures exist in sophisticated societies you would still have to massively reduce the complexity and intelligence of human culture to make it comparable to whales and dolphins. Does anyone making such comments as above have access to a dictionary or even a basic understanding of humanity and its magnificent achievements? Does empathy and understanding of other species mean we have to demean our own? Whether you like it or not, here's a unavoidable truth: whales, dolphins and the other great apes are inferior to us, in culture (reduce the meaning of that word all you like) and intelligence. Before anyone gets upset, really read what I just said: protect and cherish other species as other wonderful beings. But stop demeaning our own species in order to do so.

I have to say that I agree. We should release these animals and our dependence upon them. Dolphins have been known to save our lives, and all hunting of them and whales should cease.
Dawn, Columbus, Ga, Usa

I once was blessed with a dolphin encounter. I was panned by the so called "experts" for this very evident beach meeting in Cornwall. The animal showed intelligence, fear, regard - a whole string of emotions. He, for "he" became evident - related to my dog quite happily. This is an intelligent creature. There is absolutely no basis to begin to think of killing any of these beings. They have no exceptional food or other value in any way. Like us, they have a right to life. Nature put them on the earth for a purpose. We need to respect that.
John Osborne, La Houssiere, France

Being kept in captivity is one thing, what about the slaughter of Calderon Dolphins in Denmark. A display of human behaviour at its finest. How on earth such barbaric activity is allowed to continue quite simply makes me sick to my stomach.
S W, cheltenham

Whilst a dolphin's or whale's frame of reference is clearly different to our land based view of the world, they are clearly right up there in the pecking order of intelligence. Douglas Adam's comical view is rather close to the truth. Hunting is obviously wrong and captivity highly dubious unless it becomes absolutely necessary for conservation. I look forward to the day when we can not only translate between human languages but we can effect communication of sorts between species. We have got some way there with African Grey's and chimps - when we make that breakthrough with cetaceans they can give the IWC a piece of their mind.
AP, Tunbridge Wells, UK

The debate on whether cetaceans are intelligent is old, age old. Just how intelligent or comparable to us is debatable, honestly I really don't think any animal is on a par with human intelligence and comparing them, to me, only seems like another effort to use propaganda that can relate to everyone. I really don't think they are any more intelligent that pigs, elephants, dogs etc. Although this debate has achieved much progress in public opinion and succeeded in bringing the issue to everyone around the globe, it is still very much a matter of simple economics and complex cultural identity. Combatting the problem on these battle grounds to me, seems like it might lead to more permanent measures being taken. We can stop the entertainment industry from using cetaceans for vulgar profit by simply boycotting them, but whaling escapes this particular domain. So... yes I agree they are intelligent, but I honestly believe they are not on a par with humans, however should they be hunted? There are many arguments of a technical nature and in the area of consumer health that I think would be far more useful in this next stage of whale conservation and protection.
Benjamin Clarke, Santiago Chile

Only the naive can thing that cetaceans, along with many other species, lack intelligence and culture. Unfortunately until the great majority of human leaders start looking outside of their boxes and truly see a world as diverse as ours, possibly the only one in the universe, will other life forms be saved. We are still a billion miles from sustainability. Cetaceans should not be hunted, but then neither should we be hunting their food to extinction either. Wolves have an incredible complex level of culture and intelligence, so do all the apes, not just the big ones. There are just so many examples yet humans continually hunt and maim other animals or slash and burn our forests. 'We have to live somehow', is the message from the poor people of the world and 'We have to turn a profit' from the rich people. The only thing we can do to live really sustainably is to start to depopulate this planet. Sounds horrible doesn't it. If we don't do it voluntarily one thing is certain - wars or natural catastrophes will do it for us ventually.
Steve, Warlingham, UK

Don, Holland

A lot of thanks to Margi Prideaux. I would like to say, every individual cetacean has the right to life. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
Engr Salam, Kalai, Bangladesh

Sadly, I think Ms. Prideaux is unrealistically optimistic. If the discovery that Chimpanzees, our closest relatives, use tools and are smarter than we thought did not stop the bushmeat trade, medical research, or their captivity, I find it hard to imagine that cetaceans will be treated much better.
Dom, Washington, DC

Whales and dolphins have very complex social structures and strong familial bonds. They use their sonar to navigate, to forage for live fish, and to communicate - it is a rich sensorial part of their lives. In a concrete tank, they have no use for sonar as they are fed dead fish at the surface of the water, the sonar reverberates back to them in an unnatural manner, and they're not going anywhere.... So their sonar, much akin to a human's use of sight and hearing, is typically greatly diminished in captivity and replaced with stress-induced, aberrant, maladaptive behaviors, not seen in free whales and dolphins. And the irony is that in the captive situation, you have people using rudimentary sign language to "teach" the whales and dolphins silly tricks for their meals when it is highly likely that they have so much more to teach us if we would only allow them, but to do that we would have to allow them their freedom first. So you ask if I agree with Ms. Prideaux? Absolutely. Thank you for your time.
Nora Sinkankas, Bethany, Oklahoma United States of America

We continue to demean ourselves and torture whales and dolphins by our callous treatment of them. Whaling must stop, culls of dolphins in the name of tradition must stop, only subsistence catches should be allowed as long as that is truly what they are. These intelligent creatures deserve better from us than a slow, painful death, or being kept in the equivalent of a bathtub to provide so-called entertainment for ignorant people.
Susan Platter, Swindon, Wiltshire, England.

It makes sense that other animals have evolved an intelligence of their own. In some ways these creatures have more sense than us humans as they don't squander their environments to the point that they are on the verge of collapse. I hope these ideas will extend to our closest living ancestors, chimpanzees, gorillas and other great apes. They too are hunted close to extinction and have their habitat destroyed by humans.
Caroline, Kirkcaldy, Scotland

I absolutely agree with Margi Prideaux. Whales and dolphins are highly evolved mammals with a sophisticated intelligence. In anything, hunting and keeping them in captivity should make us question our own intelligence...not to mention our self-proclaimed right to the moral high ground. Can I just add that these view points should only apply to whales and dolphins but to all life. It is a sad truth that the vast majority people do not waste a single thought on the welfare for any other life forms on our planet, as exemplified by our attitude towards the production of farm animals for food.
Ilse Hendriks, Edenbridge

What gives us the right to hunt and kill these majestic, inteligent, sociable animals? Until enough of us stand up and say 'Not in my name'then it will continue. Until enough of us realise eating them or using them for our own pleasure just because we 'have always done so'isn't a good enough reason, then it will continue. Until enough of us tell our political leaders we don't want this to go on, it will continue. Continue until nothing is left, the seas are void of whale, dolphin and any fish come to that. People used to say "It's good to beat a child, they learn right from wrong, it does them no harm. Do we still beat children? No. Because someone said "This isn't right" Do we kill dolphins and whales for 'scientific purposes' yes, until we all say "Stop, this isn't right".
Ian, Wolverhampton

The great apes are far closer to us and display more recognisable qualities we consider to be sentient, and yet after decades of abuse we're still no closer to respecting their right to life, so what hope do the marine mammals have?

We (as a species) measure our existence by the numbers of fellow humans we can "scr*w over". There was still cannibalism going on into the middle of the last century. Irrespective of how intelligent etc. Cetaceans are, our behaviour is even less likely to be curbed when a different species is involved. Individually, humanity has some shining examples of conscious good behaviour. Collectively, we deserve everything that's coming to us.
Peter, London UK

David Edwarsd, Aberdare

Im just surprised that this has taken so long. Im not really understanding what's so difficult about this way of thinking, I mean, Im no hippy, but all things on this planet have the right to their own lives. Im not of the belief that all things on this planet are here to serve humans, the mighty being. Everyone needs to get off their high horse. It's really barbaric. Im fully of the opinion that these majestic beings should have their undisturbed place in this world. So should everything else. Not a difficult concept, but refused by the greedy and the ignorant. Im in favour of having these people in captivity rather, I'd be interested to see how they feel afterwards.
Deesha Singh, Johannesburg, South Africa

I have believed for many years, especially after learning to scuba that all sea life was precious with reefs being exploited beyond the breaking point. I had undestood from various dolphin programs that they were about as intelligent as dogs. My own thoughts were that they were closer to our own intelect, but with greatly expanded senses into the sonic snd bioelectric arena. What seems to be becoming increasingly obvious with our knowledge of cetaceans becoming more complete, is that these beings are not our equal, but excede us in some respects. What awful scenes we see in this light are the slaugter of whales and dolphins by Japanese Whalers and Fishermen in most of the feeding grounds for these species. We can surely find alternative sources for the products we get from whaling. Let us campaign at world government level for a change to the existing policies. Bring it up at the UN. Demarcate the Cetacean feeding grounds like we do Marine Reserves. But surely stop whaling altogether and stop dolphin hunts as well.
Damien Handslip, United Kingdom

Cetaceans have been known to possess intelligence for some decades (John Lilly's research in the 1960's showed this). They seem to have a complex language, and even a global communication system (relaying messages in a chain fashion from one whale to the next). Whilst it is human nature to farm/hunt other species, surely an indication of sophistication and intelligence in a species should exclude them from being looked upon as simply a 'resource'? I wonder how humanity would feel if another species began hunting us for food, especially if that 'other species' decided to turn a blind-eye to our 'intelligence'?...
tim burnett, Horley, UK

As a species we seem to think it is ok to put whales and dolphins in a zoo or theme park and that we own them. We have to understand that doing this is wrong. There are people who will argue that captivity has saved certain species from extinction and that could be a convincing argument but in the process we seem to have forgotten that these are actual creatures with the intelligence to know they are no longer free. The tragic case of the orca keeper who died is a key example of this - this is clearly an unhappy animal who has turned destructive but we've put the poor creature in such a situation where we cannot release it for fear it won't survive. So instead we'll put it in what appears to be a massive tank but to a whale is like a bath tub and ask it to do tricks or breed. Hardly an existence is it? How can that ever been deemed as fair or justified? Keeping whales and dolphins in captivity is abhorrent and whaling is even worse. What leaves a bitter taste with regard to whaling is when the fleets dress it up as Research. If whaling is brought back at the IWC meeting it should bring shame on those leaders who agree to it. The only factor we can hope for is that they will not approve the move and if they do them organisations such as Sea Shepherd will be there to stop them.
Jenny , Surrey, UK

I agree and think that not only whales and dolphins but many more animals display signs of sophisticated intelligence and complex culture. Because we do not understand them does not make us superior at all. There is only one species that has a negative impact on animals and environment. No we should not hunt whales and dolphins but we should observe and study them, they can teach us their positive qualities.
Mercedes De Windt, Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

Whales are incredibly sophisticated creatures and feel pain and suffering and loss as greatly as we do, who are we to deny them the right to live? I don't believe that whales should be hunted or kept / bred in captivity - no bi-product of the whales cannot be replicated by other means, so where is any justification to hunt them? There was a time when certain nationalaties of human beings were not considered 'evolved' enough to be given rights - this is another form of ignorance and discrimination.
Inge Hansen, South Africa

It is about time people have started to realise and take note the intelligence and importance of these amazing animals. There is nothing we can learn from marine mammals being in captivity, and the whole purpose of it is simply for money and our own entertainment. It is like basing a study on humans on one indvidual who has ben taken from their home and put in a tiny room everyday for their entire life, banned from the right to communicate with others and to simply act natural. Anyone who has been lucky enough to observe whales and dolphins in the wild undoubtly are aware of this higher intelligence these animals posess, and their right to be free.
Stacey Emiliou, Sutton Coldfield

Douglas Adams said it best: "Man has always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much...the wheel, New York, wars and so on...while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man...for precisely the same reason."
al , stirling

Yes I agree with Margi Prideaux. We have moved away from slaying these Intelligent, beautiful & Majestic Mammals. This is the way it should remain.For far to long we have placed ourselves at the top of an intelligence tree ignorant & oblivious to the intelligence of other species it's about time we started moving forward together to preserve this planet & the species on it of which we're included. The hunting that has happened in the past was carried out by a young abscent minded, immature human race.....we now know much more than ever before about these mammals (Whales & Dolphins) & we have probably only just delved beneath the surface, to allow the hunting to happen again in the southern oceans would mean that perhaps we ought to retest our own intelligence levels because if it carries then clearly we're not as intelligent as we think.
Stephen Pollard, Havant , hants. UK.

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