Friday, 19 September 2008

The Dolphin Embassy -- Momentum is gathering

The Dolphin Embassy has just returned to Australia from our annual overseas journey.

Each year since 2005 we have “taken our show on the road”, traveling around the world to do presentations, informing and inspiring audiences to regard all cetaceans as deserving of recognition, recognition of their inherent status as advanced beings with unalienable rights. Each year we experience growth in the acceptance of the ideas we offer.

This year our tour was shorter, but it feels that it may have had a strong impact. We spent time in Colorado, Florida, California, and Oregon, and in each place the level of interest delighted us.

We did six formal presentations in the US this year –Denver (at the beautiful headquarters of the
Metaphysical Research Society), Sebastopol, Petaluma, San Francisco (at Globe Studios and Sound Therapy Center), and Mt Shasta (at the Flying Lotus) in California, and Portland, Oregon. Supported along the way by our dear friends Barry and Coral of Sebastopol, Fort Schlesinger of Petaluma, and the wonderful energy of Brent Willet, we were able to reach audiences that were primed and ready to hear about the ideas we share.

In the late 1950s,
Dr. John C. Lilly began his famous research on dolphins. His quest led him to the momentous discovery that they are fully sentient, cognizant, reasoning, cultured, and sophisticated beings. It was immediately apparent to Dr. Lilly that something was amiss in our relationship with cetaceans – he had made the same mistakes as everyone else, assuming them to be just another species of animal.

Once he made his important breakthrough, it was an easy step to realize that dolphins, whales, and porpoises deserved to have their rights recognized and protected. It is not, as some have misunderstood, the human role to offer them their rights. Instead, it is our duty to acknowledge the rights that they have. As a matter of scientific fact, their history as a highly evolved family of beings is much older than the human (even the Bible, in Genesis, specifically recognizes that they were created on an earlier “Day” then humans, the fifth Day. They were the earliest creatures named in the Old Testament).

Dr. Lilly saw, in a sudden insight, that there already exists a vast nation, comprised of all the seas and oceans of our planet. The citizens of this nation, the largest on the planet, are the Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises – the
Cetacean Nation.

In 1961, Dr. Lilly published his first reference to this idea. Over the subsequent years he worked with many friends to develop the concept. With
Michael Bailey, of Greenpeace Hawaii (the only Greenpeace autonomous “cell” that did not become part of the subsequent amalgamated organization we know as Greenpeace International), he worked out a strategic plan for implementing recognition of the Cetacean Nation.

Later on, his close friend
Rebecca Goodman joined John in publicly announcing, again, the intention to bring the Cetacean Nation to reality.

When I asked John, in 1997, what he hoped his public legacy would be --after a lifetime of inventions, discoveries, and important research – he answered without hesitation “
the Cetacean Nation”.

Years of discussion and public presentations later (we shared the stage at the
6th International ICERC Whale and Dolphin Conference in Hervey Bay, Australia, 1997, presenting our ideas about the Cetacean Nation), John surprised me by publicly suggesting that his preferred Ambassador to the United Nations from the Cetacean Nation would be me. (see “Gilding the Lilly: The Cetacean Nation”, video by SoundPhotosynthesis).

Dr. John C. Lilly and Scott Taylor, Hervey Bay, Australia, 1997

John had this to say:
“Mr. Taylor is a key person in what I call the Cetacean Nation, a global network of like-minded individuals attempting to bridge the communication gap between humans and cetaceans. His work contributes a wider understanding of humanity, cetacea, and the environment on the edge of the twenty-first century. Scott’s continued efforts as educator and catalyst bridge not only the interspecies communication barrier, but the barriers between people.”

Sadly, we were not able to accomplish the global recognition of the Cetacean Nation before Dr. Lilly died (Sept. 30, 2001). Our dedication to this goal is unabated, however.
The Dolphin Embassy -- Australia

We established
The Dolphin Embassy as a registered non-profit organization in Australia in October of 2004. Its mission is to educate and inspire humans toward a proper regard for the rights of all cetaceans. To this end we have taken multi-media presentations on the road, traveling around the world, visiting India, Belgium, the Bahamas, Mexico, Fiji, and many states in America (Florida, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, New Mexico. Arizona, California).

We recognize the quixotic nature of this endeavor. It is easily seen as a harmless joke, a prank that we might pull to engage people, pulling them via humour into thinking, if only for a moment, about the rights of Cetaceans. We also see this as we see many aspects of the dolphin story – the closer you look, and become involved, the deeper it gets.
An Aside – and a bit of history
Doug Michels was a visionary artist, architect, and man of many talents. In 1974, he and some friends established “The Dolphin Embassy” as an art project under the aegis of the famous Ant Farm, in Houston Texas. A 501 (c) 3 non-profit was organized to support the idea. In 1978, after a disastrous fire destroyed the studios of the Ant Farm, the project was abandoned. In 1977, Michels went as far as traveling to Australia to meet some dolphins, to explain his intentions, to offer to speak on their behalf.

Doug Michels, Gold Coast, Australia, 1977

Some years later, Michels drew plans for an orbiting space station (
Project Blue Star) that included a central glass globe full of water, in which dolphins could live. His idea was that dolphins could be the best weightless teachers we could find, alien intelligence that could help us understand the mysteries of outer space. (it was not explained how the dolphins would access air, or how the water would be taken up to the station).

Project Blue Star

In an sad bit of synchronicity, Doug Michels was in Australia, working on a film about the friendly Orca of Eden Bay in 2004 when he slipped and fell off a cliff and died. He died on the same day that we formally established
The Dolphin Embassy in Australia. We did not know that he was in Australia at the time…
The Current Status of the Dolphin Embassy

Over the years we have met many people with parts to offer. Some have led us to important aspects of the process of becoming able to work at the
United Nations (thanks, Marsha, for that!) Some have engaged in lengthy discussions via email, aiming to sharpen our approach. And some have been very supportive in helping gather audiences to hear our ideas (thanks especially for this, Brent!). We are always on the lookout for well-prepared people in the fields of international law, diplomacy, intercultural communications, and NGO experience to discuss this idea.

Studying the application form from the UN for recognition of a
Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), we discovered that one does not have to be human to be represented! How delightful…

Addressing the inevitable challenges we can assume we will face when we arrive at the United Nations, from those who do not accept that we can truthfully represent the dolphins – we can hear them now: “When have you, or anyone, ever had a meaningful conversation with a dolphin? What right do you have to represent them?” – we have carefully developed a four-point agenda. We feel that no one can realistically assert that dolphins, whales, and porpoises would NOT want these four rights to be recognized:
Four-part agenda of the Cetacean Nation at the UN
Safe  Universal protection from intentional harm. This will require diplomacy, as some cultures still believe cetaceans are food
Clean  Clean water in which to live. All water, everywhere, flows to the Oceans. We must stop pollution and clean the waters of the world.
Quiet  No sonic pollution of the oceans. Commercial and Military uses of sound in the oceans must be reduced to harmless levels.
Peace  An end to war. Humans must stop killing each other-- as a prerequisite to peace for all.

If you feel that you have skills or resources to offer to this effort, please contact us. We have many details developed in our strategic plan, requiring support from a large team of dedicated people.
Would you like to join us in taking the voice of the dolphins to the United Nations?

Join us for discussion of these ideas at: http://

C. Scott Taylor, PhD

Monday, 26 May 2008

A contribution to the science of Dolphin-Assisted Therapy

A few days ago we were finally able to send off a packet in the mail that we had long hoped to send. After a year and a half of work, we finished our latest research paper and submitted it to a respected, peer-reviewed journal in England. We look forward to seeing it published.

Swimming with dolphins:measuring mood change and the durability of change, it is a carefully done study of the mood state of our guests before and after swimming with dolphins. We also look at how the emotional response to our wellness program and the dolphin experience has affected their lives over time.

Each guest filled out a simple form three times. Once before any dolphin contact, once after the second dolphin swim, and at a date later on. We have our guests fill out the same questionnaire used pre-swim and post-swim at a later date to see how the mood state that they have from the dolphin experience has lasted. Each guest is assigned a random number that determines when their final, third questionnaire is sent to them, so that we can see how their mood state is at 1, 2, 4, 8, or 12 weeks post-swim.

By using a well-recognised psychological "testing instrument" (the Positive And Negative Affect Survey, PANAS-X), we have been able to take advantage of many years of research into moods and their changes. Using statistical analysis, we have been able to look closely at many aspects of mood change, energy levels, positive and negative feelings...and the results are very interesting.

Until the paper is published, we are not able to share our findings. We can say that we have finally found a way to substantiate what many people have experienced, which is to say that dolphins have a wonderful effect on our emotions, and the effect does last. The amazing parts are in the details. Stay tuned...

There has been little research done over the years into how Dolphin-Assisted Therapy works and what effects one can expect.
We are proud to have begun making a contribution to this neglected field.

DAT is a health-promoting and successful form of therapy when done in a careful and realistic way. There are many forms of DAT, from clinical-style programs with multiple sessions, to programs such as ours, that allow each person to seek their own well-being in a supportive environment among dolphins. The field of DAT is getting closer to becoming a fully defined style of therapy, and we are delighted to be adding to the strength of it.

We have had so many guests who have had life-changing moments during their dolphin encounters, we know there is something to this, something that enables change. We call it a movement toward Wellness.

Following on from our recent project, we have been gathering data from our latest swim season to do a more in-depth research project, using the same instrument, and adding gender and age to the mix of factors. Our first paper was based on surveys of 53 people, with 37 returning the final questionnaire. Our next paper will be based on around 100 people, and we are anticipating at least 75 returning the final questionnaire. This will be a much larger sample, further strengthening our research.

DAT deserves to be solidly supported by research. Research should be done well, so that the "ineffable" experience we have when around dolphins can be understood. Toward this goal, we have made some progress.

We are very proud to be working on these research projects with our Research Fellow at the Cetacean Studies Institute, psychologist Hunter Handley. His good humour, steady hand, and excellent analysis has made this project come to life. Of course, we can not overlook the data gathering and processing and mailing work done by Amanda and me. Many thanks must also go to our guests who have been gracious enough to participate.

Scott and Amanda

A fantastic season, a fond (temporary) farewell

We just finished Dolphin EDventures Wellness Program for 2007-08. What a wonderful season we many fine folks came to join us in the water with the Coffs Harbour Four, swimming, playing, sharing time with a wonderful group of friendly ambassador dolphins.

Calamity, the rescued female, whose tail is not strong enough to survive the rigours of ocean life, is pregnant, again. She is due to deliver sometime around the end of November, and we are all very happy about this. How wonderful, to imagine Bella with a new baby brother or sister.

However, this means we will be unable to have our normal Wellness Program during the upcoming Australian summer. We have begun the search for another facility where we can do our Wellness Program, and are hoping to have arrangements made in time to begin a program in March of 2009. We will return to Coffs Harbour and the wonderful Pet Porpoise Pool in October of 2009 to resume our work here. Until then, we will be searching, visiting facilities in various parts of the world, and making arrangements.

Stay tuned to our blog and our website to see what we are planning. It is exciting, to begin a long-held dream of having more than one facility that allows visitors to have the deeper, quieter, more intimate kind of encounter that we encourage, where both human and dolphin can gain from the time together. We like to dream of many places in the coming years where this is possible, to satisfy the many people who want a more "authentic" time with the dolphins, not having trainers asking the dolphins for specific behaviours.

We have found that, working with the wonderful staff at the Pet Porpoise Pool, that it is not only possible, but actually easy to arrange this kind of program. It requires a facility and a training staff that trusts the dolphins, treats them with all due respect, and where there is as little stress as possible upon everyone --dolphins and trainers alike, so that everyone can be at ease. In an environment where everyone is comfortable, the feeling of joy and the fun of life can easily be shared. This is where some of the wellness that so many of our guests have found comes from, the harmonious experience of several species simply enjoying the wonder of life and sharing it. To know that another being, one who is so different, is enjoying you and your companions, and that you are able to share their enjoyment -- well, that is precious.

In the present moment, when we are not trying to redo the past, or attempting to live in the future, we are capable of touching the joy that exists in life. Dolphins, because they are so adept at being themselves, at being graceful in the water, so beautifully aware of all that is going on around them, show us a brilliant minded being who is present, attuned, and very aware. As one of our guests once said, "Dolphins know your story, and they don't BUY your story." They see the tensions and issues we carry, but they have no need to interact with that, only the fact that we are there, and capable of aware interaction. It is a refreshing thing to find oneself playing with someone who cares nothing about your past, or what you will do tomorrow, but is only here, only now, at ease.

Our search for another home for our work will take us into a new era, and we are looking forward to it. And enjoying each moment, here and now.

Stay tuned.

Scott and Amanda
The Ambassadors

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Dolphin stranding: Where can we put the dolphins who need to stay with us?

Research shows an alarming trend in the euthanasia of stranded dolphins. With the advent of powerful organizations whose purpose is to limit, or make entirely illegal, the display of cetaceans, the opportunity for a dolphin who strands and who requires long term care-- due to circumstances that make it inhumane to return it to the sea -- has nearly disappeared in Australia.

All too often, rangers working for government agencies appear at cetacean strandings with hypodermic syringes filled and ready. If a dolphin or small whale is thought unlikely to survive if returned to the water quickly, or who might require long-term care if rescued, it is killed on the spot.

How many have died due to having nowhere to be taken for rehabilitation? Figures are nearly impossible to find, due to governmental efforts to keep this data from the public.

The situation today: recent deaths

In known cases, officers have arrived on the scene of a stranding with syringes in hand, immediately killing the dolphin, before any realistic assessment of the condition of the dolphin has been done.

In Coffs Harbour, in 2006, a Risso’s Dolphin was found, stranded in the estuary. Local dolphin experts were in the process of getting the dolphin onto a stretcher to be carried to the Pet Porpoise Pool, one of only two facilities in Australia licensed to rehabilitate dolphins. Before they could get the dolphin onto a stretcher, a female ranger from the National Parks and Wildlife Service arrived, came down to see the dolphin, identified it as a Risso’s Dolphin (an offshore species rarely seen near land), and proceeded to inject it with a lethal dose of chemicals, killing it immediately.

The necropsy carried out the following day showed absolutely no pathology. This stranded dolphin was killed for no reason. It had no identifiable illness, disease, or parasites. Ironically, it was only meters away from one of the only rescue facilities capable of helping that lonely stranded dolphin.

If this Risso’s Dolphin had been given a fair go, it could have been helped to recover, and would have been taken to sea and released. If she had not be able to live in the ocean, she could have been given a lifetime of excellent care, living among humans as a sort of Ambassador for her kind.

The policy of NPWS is that “the best interests of the stranded cetaceans will be taken into consideration at all times”. While this is the established and published policy, in fact, the local district managers give verbal instructions to rangers to euthanise in nearly every case.

The window of opportunity for a dolphin to become an Ambassador has shut in Australia. How many people among the millions who love dolphins, who surf beside them, watch them from headlands and beaches, and who come to see them at either Sea World or the Pet Porpoise Pool, know that dolphins are being killed regularly by their government?

In a maddening case on the NSW coast, near the town of Cabarita, July 17th 2006, a very young Humpback Whale was found stranded in shallow water. Rescuers arrived and were ready to help her back into the surf when officials from NPWS decided to have her moved up onto the beach, above the high water mark, so that “assessments could be done”. Stated at the time, the reason was “to get blood samples and to see if her mother could be spotted nearby”.

However, instead of allowing for the whale’s own natural ability to find her own mother, or to make her way out into the open ocean where other whales might be found to swim with and protect her, the officials chose to keep her stranded on the beach, far above where she had been. As the tide receded, she became well and truly stranded. She lay on her belly, crushing her own lungs and internal organs. She died a horrible, slow, lingering death before the anguished eyes of the rescuers.

The official report stated that this whale had no chance of being able to survive the open sea. In fact, this was an ill-informed opinion, not a verifiable certainty, and her life was ended by lethal injection only after many, many hours of terrible suffering.
(See “Death of a baby whale” story for the sad details)

Eye of the Cabarita whale, in agony as she died on the beach.
July, 2006

Australia has nearly 60,000 kilometres of coastline. There are many thousands of kilometres of beaches where cetaceans can and do strand. With only two facilities -- within 250 kilometres of each other on the east coast -- licensed to hold dolphins or small whales for rehabilitation, where do the dolphins go who might be rescued, helped to regain their health over time, and either be put back in the ocean, or given a lifetime of care?

The answer is: there is no legal way for a dolphin to be helped, other than to kill it to put it out of its suffering.

The History of an ongoing tragedy

In a country that loves the ocean and the beaches, where it is said that 75% of the population lives within 100 k of the ocean, that enjoys a worldwide reputation as ocean lovers, and especially dolphin and whale lovers, how has this come to be?

The story as the Cetacean Studies Institute has pieced it together is this:
Following the historic Frost Report in 1978, which recommended that all Australian whaling cease immediately, based on a comprehensive study carried out under Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, the general mood in Australia, especially among environmental organizations and animal welfare advocacy groups, was that all uses and potential abuses of cetaceans, including dolphins, must come under careful scrutiny.

Commendably, this was the result of dolphins having played a significant role in the research that led up to the report’s conclusions. Experts from Dr. John Lilly, to Roger Payne, to Karen Pryor, Hec Goodall (of Coffs Harbour and the Pet Porpoise Pool), Dr Bill Dawbin, Dr Peter Singer, and many others testified to the mental, emotional, and social sophistication of dolphins. Using dolphins as the only cetaceans about which much was known, it was projected that whales had many of the same qualities. On this basis, whaling was stopped.

The direct result of the campaign against whaling was another campaign, this time to close down the dolphinariums. Activists, empowered by their success in shutting down the whaling industry (although by the time of the Frost Report, only one whaling station continued to exist, as the whales had nearly been driven to extinction), organised to close the places where dolphins were under the care of humans.

Of the nine dolphin facilities in Australia at that time, only two now remain. A combination of economics, social pressure, and growing investigative powers being vested in various government agencies, began too have their effect: the facilities bowed to pressure and closed down, one by one.

Tragically, many of the dolphins who had been living among humans were now turned out to sea, and were either seen to die, or disappeared quickly, their fates unknown. What does one do with a dolphin if no one is willing to take it? Atlantis, a large marine animal facility in Western Australia, had nine dolphins when they decided to yield to public and government pressures, and close. They offered their dolphins to Underwater World in Perth, who accepted them and began a program to prepare them for a return to, or in some cases a first look at, the sea.

The story is well documented. Of the nine, three disappeared, with only one ever being seen again, despite having had a freeze brand upon its dorsal fin. Three others died, killed by sharks as witnessed by observers. The three remaining dolphins simply refused to leave, and returned repeatedly to the boat harbour, begging fish from boaters.

The three who were begging food were retaken into human care. In a mysterious incident, and to this day not publicly explained as to who did it, or how it was done, they were all poisoned and died. The community expressed its outrage, tears were shed, local authorities insisted that they would not rest until the culprits were found and punished, and the entire affair was eventually shoved back into the collective memory and ignored.

The Pet Porpoise Pool, an outstanding example

When Hec Goodall and some of his mates decided to build an animal rehabilitation centre in Coffs Harbour in the late 60s, it made sense to build it next to an estuary. Land was purchased, funds were raised, and building commenced. By Boxing Day of 1970, the Pet Porpoise Pool was open.

Not long after opening, a call came in, alerting the staff to a stranding event in the nearby Nambucca River. In an oyster lease, on a sandbar, were found four dolphins, badly sunburned, dehydrated, and suffering. Before they could all be rescued, two died. The other two were brought to the PPP and rehabilitation began. Based on Hec's and the Pickering brothers experience at the Jack Evans Porpoise Pool in Tweed Heads, they were able, somehow, to keep the dolphins alive.

The older one was a female and it was initially thought that she was the other one’s mother. Quickly they realised she was not – she was not lactating, and showed no maternal interest in the other, much younger rescuee. The young one was judged to be about one year old, and was named Buck, for the Nambucca River where he was found.

Both young Buck and the female recovered. However, both were badly damaged, and it had taken over a year to deem them healthy again. The female was not strong enough to go back to sea, and young Buck had, by then, entirely forgotten the ways of the wild. He had lived in very clean, disease-and-parasite-free water, had been fed five times a day, and had grown quite attached to his human family.

It was decided, by government officials, veterinarians, and the staff at the Pet Porpoise Pool, to keep both dolphins at the PPP. Thus began the amazing life of Buck. His female friend died of natural causes a few years later, but as of this date, Buck is still with us, at the age of 37, having spent 36 years among humans.

Buck is a delightfully friendly dolphin. He genuinely likes people, approaching all who come to the side of his pool, allowing caresses and seeking out those willing to play catch with a ball. He has, in a conservative estimate, befriended nearly a million people in his many years.

When Hec Goodall was told that he should begin making plans to close the Pet Porpoise Pool, he thought of Buck. Could he survive in an ocean he had not known since he was an infant? Could he, in good conscience, tell the public that, due to government regulations, he was going to condemn Buck to certain death? No, it was not going to happen.

Hec Goodall then began a 20-year campaign to get a permanent license to rehabilitate, or display if unable to be returned to the sea, any dolphin who should make it into his facility. It took a terrible toll on Hec, but he managed to do it. In October of 2004, the Pet Porpoise Pool was granted a permanent license to house dolphins.

Calamity, a female dolphin, was rescued in 1995, not once, but twice. Her tail wrapped with fishing gear, and badly wounded, she was found near the mouth of the Tweed River. Healed and grown strong again, she was returned to the sea. Several months later she was found again, this time with over 10 kilos of fishing line wrapped around her tail stock, so tightly her flukes were nearly severed. This time, once she was healthy again, it was clear that her weakened tail would not allow her to survive at sea.

Many dolphins have come and gone from the Pet Porpoise Pool. Many have been rehabilitated and returned to the ocean. Some have died, despite heroic efforts to help them live. At present (April 2008), there are four dolphins at the PPP, including Buck and Calamity, Buck’s son Zip, who is 19 years old, and young Bella, the energetic daughter of Buck and Calamity.

Buck, Calamity, Zip, and Bella

What are the chances for a dolphin who strands today, to be given a lifetime of excellent care, and a role as a teacher, ambassador, and example of compassionate care for Nature? Unless it happens close to Sea World on the Gold Coast, or near Coffs Harbour, and a National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger can be prevented from killing it immediately, its chances are virtually nonexistent.

Based on the NPWS idea that the Australian public does not want to see dolphins under human care, an old idea left over from the days of the “End the Whaling” campaigns, rangers are told to exercise their authority to euthanise all dolphins who cannot be expected to survive a very short period of stabilisation. In practice, this means that all dolphins are put down if they cannot be refloated and released on the spot.

At present there are only a handful of citizens in Australia trained to act as official dolphin or whale stranding volunteers. The pitifully small numbers, with little equipment, virtually no sea-water pools designated to serve as holding pools, and no government support, can do next to nothing in the event of a stranding.

Where can the dolphins go?

The Cetacean Studies Institute has hopes that a national education campaign can be undertaken, aimed at several outcomes.

1) A change of legislation to govern the NPWS policies regarding stranded dolphins and small whales. Rules must be written that will allow for stranding teams to help dolphins and small whales to be taken into care if at all possible.
2) A national stranding network should be designed, publicised, and supported by government grants, with trained, well-equipped teams and designated salt-water pools listed.
3) Regional centres should be built to rehabilitate, return to the wild, or provide excellent lives for marine animals, at government expense.
4) Legislation should be passed to allow for more licenses for rehab and display facilities where dolphins can be given care, and whose talents can be researched.
5) Because dolphins living among humans live lives that are not as rich with challenges and opportunities to use their extraordinary abilities, and who need, and deserve, enrichment in their lives to keep them healthy, Dolphin-Assisted Therapy should be given support as a means to help dolphins, and as a real therapy, especially valuable for special-needs children, as well as a rejuvenating aspect of wellness programs.

As an independent research and education institute, we urge the Australian public to look closely at this situation, and write or talk to your local representative to initiate new legislation, enabling stranded dolphins and whales to be taken care of, and if necessary, given a meaningful -- and much longer -- life among humans.

They offer us so much. Isn't it time that we show them the compassion they deserve?

Scott Taylor

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

"In Defense of Dolphins": a book review

I have recently finished reading an important book titled "In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier", by Thomas I. White.

White is a Professor of Philosophy who has been interested in dolphins for the last 15 years. He focuses on ethics in his teaching and writing, and applies his background in the philosophy of ethics to this book.

His main theme is the assertion that dolphins deserve "person-hood", to be recognised as non-human persons. To this end he gathers much of the important current research into their cognitive abilities, their emotional intelligence, their social nature, and what he repeatedly calls their "alien intelligence".

I feel indebted to Prof. White for this book. He has done us all a great service.

However, I think my indebtedness to him might be of a nature he does not expect.

This book has many merits. It stands tall as a resource for the building movement toward recognition of the rights of dolphins. Professor White has done his research well, with many of the most current research projects into dolphin cognition reviewed.

Here is where my views on this book might be surprising to Dr. White: I believe that this work will engage me for some time to come, as it will no doubt be used by many to continue the fight for the end of the dolphin-human connection. It reveals the strategy of those who would end or seriously impede our growing, and vitally important, relationship with the People of the Sea.

At present I can only skim the issues that are found in this important book.

I find it to be deeply flawed. Not only incomplete, but flawed by its incompleteness. He avoids, overlooks, and ignores important aspects of the story. Granted, the histories and sciences and traditions and philosophies and religions and vast storehouse of human experiences is a lot to take on, but they must if we are to have a full understanding of dolphins and our relationship to them.

There is misdirection in this book, and it appears to be intentional. Very troubling is his abuse of the trust he has created in his readers once he attempts to reach his previously hidden, ultimate goal -- the abolition of all human-managed facilities where dolphins live.

The misuse of the goodwill and trust he has created in the first part of the book, where he builds his careful case for person-hood, is apparent when he dives into his weird conclusions at the end, moving from one paragraph in which he says something is speculative, to the next paragraph where the same thing is now fact. He does this several times.

White uses heavily loaded words in his concluding chapters, in a distinct contrast to his earlier, more balanced word choices. It is a subtle trick as he pursues his goal, as he shades carefully from reasoned argument into biased, emotion-laden rhetoric.

He skips a lot of important information at the end, dismissing Dolphin-Assisted Therapy (DAT) in the same two pages with military uses of dolphins. He has clearly never seen a DAT session and knows next to nothing about it. By putting it in the same subchapter with military uses of dolphins, he vilifies it by association.

His incompleteness includes an apparent lack of interest in, reporting on, or simple knowledge of anything but philosophy and science. His ethics does not include any metaphysics, which I find very odd indeed. Nowhere does he mention one word of any of the spiritual dimensions of the beingness of dolphins. He exhibits the "standard disregard" for the hidden side of life, the feelings and spiritual aspects, which is all the more odd when one reads his many pages about the emotive, affective, feeling-aware dolphins.

White is woefully ignorant of history, it seems. He states that our relationship with dolphins has existed for two thousand years. How very odd that he overlooks both indigenous wisdom and traditions, the very available record of over 15,000 years of contact and relationship with dolphins. If a researcher is willing to add mythology and pre-history, we can extend that time to over 50,000 years. This is telling, as he clearly has only looked at a few of the many dimensions of our important relationship with dolphins.

Matsya Avatar, First Incarnation of Vishnu as a dolphin, 25,000 years ago

He also does not address other important aspects of his argument: what about the "moral standing" of elephants, who are proven to be self-aware by the same tests he extols when applied to dolphins? Do elephants have the same degree of moral standing, thus person-hood, as dolphins? He decries the description of dolphins as objects, as items of ownership, as anything less than beings deserving high status alongside humans, and uses examples of how we should treat them by making it out that we can deny careful consideration for all other "animals". He seems to accept abuse of all animals-- captivity, raising them for food, doing research upon them, hunting them -- but not dolphins.

He insists that all dolphins in captivity are less intelligent, less mentally adept, and definitely discontented, with nothing to interest them. He has apparently not met the same dolphins I know...

After chapters and chapters making a case that we must not anthropomorphise them, he sets about doing that very thing, over and over, during his concluding remarks. He assumes to know their thoughts, levels of contentedness, and mental agility, by using human-value-based projections upon observed behaviours.

Oddly, he says it is hard to make a case against captivity, then attempts to do so, and fails.

He says that nearly all research into dolphins-- their intelligence, health, physical systems, self-awareness, and more -- were done - necessarily - in captive environments, and that this now has no place and must end. He implies that there is nothing left to learn about dolphins that we cannot learn at sea. I am reminded of the man who resigned from the US Patent Office in the early 1900s because he was convinced there was nothing left to invent.

He suggests that dolphins in facilities be "allowed to die out over the next 40-50 years". He does not address the need for decent social interaction, which demands that dolphins be in mixed-gender groups for healthy lives, which produces more dolphins. Does he condone, as Ric O'Barry insists upon, the force-feeding of contraceptive drugs to dolphins? It would seem so.

A happy family of dolphins, Coffs Harbour, Australia

White recognises the failures of attempted release of formerly managed dolphins, so he does not advocate their summary dumping into the sea, which is to his credit, but he does advocate killing them all off by a sort of benign neglect -- and in doing so, going diametrically against his entire main argument for a decent regard for their "persons". He is hypocritical on this issue.

It is clear that White wants to end captivity. He sets out to arrive at that destination, and his first chapters do an admirable job of building a case for much better appreciation of dolphins-- their lives, intelligence, self-awareness, cognitive abilities, and more. But when he gets close to his objective, his arguments suddenly become fact-free, emotive, subjective, and ultimately corrupted by twisted logic, making many of the same errors of fact and logic that he attacked earlier in others.

All in all, his book is very important and will add fuel to many fires. He will be championed by the "Lori Marino camp" (he makes her out to be a major heroine on the dolphin scene, citing her repeatedly). He has also done the Dolphin Embassy a great favour, not only by building a very good case for person-hood, for the Cetacean Nation objective, but he has also clearly demonstrated and outlined the deep flaws in the arguments against DAT and our ever-improving, and critically important, relationship with dolphins.

Scott Taylor

Monday, 21 January 2008

Think different

Showing that you care

Most internet-based petitions achieve nothing. Emails with thousands of names in them do not impress anyone, as these can be easily faked. For this reason, we ignore most requests to become involved in petitions.

However, when we were invited by some friends (Dave Rastovich, Howie Cooke, Hannah Fraser) to join them in a visual protest, a vast collection of photographs of people holding images of dolphins or whales, to be sent to the delegates at the next International Whaling Commission meeting in Peru, we felt that this could be important.

We are alerting all of you who read this to visit the website and to link to the Visual Petition. Follow the instructions, download a dolphin or whale picture and take a photo of yourself holding the picture. Then upload the photo back onto the Visual Petition site and join thousands of others who believe as we do, that all whaling and killing of dolphins must stop.

Take the time, do what is asked, and you will have done something that can make a difference for the Cetacean Nation. Besides, it is fun!

Hannah "Mermaid" Fraser and her husband Dave Rastovich have visited us several times here in Coffs Harbour to swim with the dolphins. They are interviewed in our TV program "The Dolphin People", and if you watch the slides on the Minds in the Water site, or the Visual Petition site, you will see the photo above of Dave with Calamity, hugging her.

If you get a chance to see Dave and his surfer friends performing their music, with their band "Low Pressure Sound System", make sure to go. You won't be sorry, they are fantastic!

The Ambassadors