Friday, 13 December 2013

A Revised Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans

In 2010 a small group of self-selected scientists and activists gathered in Helsinki, Finland to discuss the rights of cetaceans under international law. Their purpose was to formulate a declaration of rights and to garner international support for such a declaration. The conference, entitled "Cetacean Rights: Fostering Moral and Legal Change", produced a declaration signed by the 11 members of the 'Helsinki Group'.

While this declaration is well intended, certain elements in it do not represent the well-being of some cetaceans, especially those 'who have nowhere else to go'

Because the Dolphin Embassy project and the Cetacean Studies Institute have done extensive research on this expanding population around the world, and have come to recognise the very real importance of protecting their needs against short-sighted, albeit well-meaning, efforts by activist organisations, a revision of the Helsinki Declaration has been undertaken.

The revised declaration is presented here. Comments are welcome, and the revised declaration is open for further revision.
To see the original Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans, as produced by the Helsinki Group, you can see their site here.

Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises

Based on the principle of the equal treatment of all persons;
Recognizing that scientific research gives us deeper insights into the complexities of cetacean minds, societies and cultures;
Recognizing that increased human interaction with cetaceans has produced deeper insights into their biological, social, and psychological requirements;
Recognizing that cetaceans have participated in mutually beneficial relationships with humans and have demonstrated adaptive capacity such that they manifest fully complex lives in built environments;
Noting that the progressive development of international law manifests an entitlement to life and well-being for cetaceans;
We affirm that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and well-being.

We conclude that:
1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life, safety, clean water, and a sonic environment that does no harm.

2. No cetacean shall be taken into captivity or be removed from their natural environment unless not doing so would endanger their survival. Any cetacean taken into human care shall be returned to their natural environment when feasible, determined on both biological and compassionate grounds. If not feasible it shall be provided an enriching environment that includes socialization with other cetaceans and with humans. Cetaceans  in human care shall have the right to bear offspring, recognising this as an important part of their social and biological nature. Any cetacean born in a human-managed environment has special status with a life-long responsibility for their care by humans.

3. No cetacean shall be subject to cruel treatment.

4. All cetaceans not in human care have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.

5. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual, but may become a ward of such entities if necessary to protect and safeguard their life and well-being. Cetaceans who have come into human care, by natural circumstances or circumstances that are irreversible, shall be provided all due care for the duration of their natural lives.

6. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.

7. Cetaceans have the right, equal to protections provided for human cultures, to not be subject to the disruption of their cultures.

8. The rights, freedoms, and norms set forth in this Declaration shall be protected under international and domestic law as well as an international framework under the administration of the United Nations in which these rights, freedoms, and norms can be fully realized.

9. No State, corporation, human group or individual shall engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.

10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights as long as the well-being of cetaceans is foremost in such provisions.

Originally agreed and signed, 22nd May 2010, Helsinki, Finland
Revised by the Cetacean Studies Institute, Dec. 2013-Oct. 2014, Queensland, Australia

Saturday, 28 September 2013

On 'captivity'

A dolphin born among humans, living a meaningful life, touching and playing with humans every day in a marine animal rehabilitation facility
Recently, several persons in online postings about human-dolphin interactions described me as "pro-captivity".

This is not correct.

If you want a label for me, say I am:
'pro-understanding the challenging situation we have with dolphins who live among humans'.

My work is dedicated to understanding this situation and to bettering the conditions under which they live

I oppose capturing dolphins for any reason other than to help them survive.

I seek the best possible care for dolphins wherever they may be. That includes those living among humans.

To respond to the inaccuracy, I will address the topic in some detail. It is a complex topic, and deserves no less.

To begin, a definition of ‘captivity’ will help clarify the discussion.

Dictionaries make a distinction between humans and animals, in regard to 'captivity', as if there is a difference. I don't think there is:  humans are animals too.
Dictionaries state that a human who has been captured is a captive, or ‘in captivity’. 
They also say that any non-human animal who is confined is a captive, or ‘in captivity’. 

Using one word to refer to two different conditions is one way the concept of 'captivity' has become a confused issue.

At what point in a relationship between a human and another animal is there 'captivity'? Are our cats captives? When is an animal unequivocally a 'captive'?

I find the word to be vague, ill-defined, and less than helpful in understanding the complexities of our relations with other animals. I don't accept ‘captivity’ as being an appropriate description for all circumstances in which a non-human animal is in a constructed fact I find it nearly useless.

Nevertheless, I have dedicated much of my life to understanding 'captivity' in all its complexities.
It is not a simple, single condition.

Horses in paddocks are confined so they cannot wander. Dogs on leashes are 'confined' to movements dictated by the person on the other end of the leash. Are these 'in captivity'? 

I think that they are at liberty to express innate capacities, with various restrictions on their movements, created by caring humans who seek their safety and wellbeing and that of others.

An elderly visitor to the dolphins, making contact, sharing a moment
Now to the topic of dolphins.
The ‘captivity’ of dolphins is a reality.

What I mean by saying that 'captivity is a reality' is this: the enclosure and confinement of dolphins exists and must be dealt with.
It is not going away in the foreseeable future.
Dolphins have crossed the boundary lines into human-made spaces, and will remain within them.
There is no 'going back'.

Approximately 80% of the dolphins living in dolphinariums in the developed world were either born there, or have been living among humans for over 20 years, and not 'releaseable'.

Whether we describe this as being the result of mistakes in the past, the product of legitimate curiosities and desire for scientific understandings, an outcome of economic opportunism for profit, or a part of a larger scenario in a spiritual context beyond our understanding, is open for interpretation.

Just as other species have joined humans in a relationship of companion-hood, so dolphins have joined us in our constructed world. They live among us.

I accept the situation as it is. This does not mean I like all aspects of it, or am 'pro-captivity'.
I accept it but do not condone it in all circumstances.

I work hard at understanding it, having done so for over 30 years.

I also work to make the confinement of non-human animals of all kinds to be part of the humane responses humans enact toward the living world, and not an addition to the suffering experienced by other animals. Rescues, best-practice care, release when possible, long-term committments to care, companionship, and compassion for all animals...everywhere. That is my position.

A brief synopsis of the various ethical positions regarding human/non-human relations may help to make more clear my understandings and position:

The position of 'Animal Liberation' is an extremist position, one that ignores many things. It justifies extreme actions, including the killing of dolphins "who would be better off dead than living in a pool", to quote an Animal Liberation dolphin murderer from here in Australia.

The "Empty Cages" promoted by Dr Tom Regan, Dr Thomas White, Dr Lori Marino, and many others are fantasies that are not based on animal welfare, but an abstract notion of 'The Natural World', a world in which humans and other animals live separate lives, apart from each other, leaving each other 'alone'.

The position of 'Animal Rights' has its own problems, inherent in its constructions. Rights and responsibilities are part of the same idea in the legal sense. Having one requires the other. Responsibilities cannot be required of a impossible notion, to require specific actions of non-humans. 

The other way of understanding 'rights' is to conceive of them as 'natural rights', and not legal rights. However, 'natural rights' are impossible to clearly define in a world in which all living things are part of a biosystem in which each depends on consuming others.

This leaves 'Animal Welfare' as the last of the three major pillars of human ethical theories about how to be in right relations with other animals. Some would argue that no amount of improvement of conditions for animals is enough, that all non-humans should be out from under all human care. This anti-welfare position denies human compassion, the innate response we have toward suffering. Walk on by when we come across a dolphin struggling in the surf? No, never. 

Animal Welfare pays close attention to the needs of individuals. Animal Rights and Animal Liberation pay attention to species, not individuals as unique sites of complex histories and adaptations.

Consider this: A dolphin born in a constructed environment is not a 'captive', in my view. It was not captured. It literally and actually has nowhere else to go.

A dolphin rescued and rehabilitated who cannot be expected to survive in the Ocean, and who is given a life-long opportunity to live under human care, is not a ‘captive’. It also has nowhere else to go.

There is one more 'ethical pillar', one that is less acknowledged, but important: the Ethic of Care. Developed as part of Feminism, it recognises that caring for the wellbeing of another is not part of the 'calculus of suffering' that Animal Liberationist and Animal Rights campaigners use to determine ethical behaviour. The Ethic of Care is direct in its individualized responses to the needs of others, and does not discriminate against 'otherness' in any form...including non-human animals.

A young dolphin, born among humans, full of curiosity, delight, and willingness to accept humans into her space, just as humans have accepted her into theirs.
She will have a lifetime of excellent care, no matter how long that may be.
 My position is this: We must always consider the actual individual as we work toward best possible outcomes. This is within the Animal Welfare concept. I add the concept of Animal Rights to this, partially, in the sense that I accept that we cannot know with certainty the 'natural rights' of other animals, but humans can create limits for human actions that enable other animals to thrive and not suffer under human care, as a natural right. And to this, I add the Ethic of Care, one that supports caring for any creature, just as religious traditions urge, as acts of compassion.

There are, of course, many details in this hybrid construction of my ethical stance that require more space and time to discuss than can be undertaken here.

Is this "pro-captivity"?
No, it is not.

It accepts the reality of what already is, without condoning it, and aims to continually improve how we treat dolphins who live among us. It accepts that some circumstances can bring dolphins across the species boundary, into human care, and that this is the most important part of the issue: how can humans improve their care of other animals, some of whom have joined humans in constructed environments?

Does this meet the demands of some activists who state that “captivity is captivity and it must be abolished”? No, it does not. Rather, my position suggests that we need to make clear what we oppose, what we accept, and what we can, in unity, support.


C. Scott  Taylor, Ambassador

Monday, 27 May 2013

It makes us wonder...


We recently received a letter from a movie producer who said he wants to make “the definitive dolphin movie”, asking us for information about Dolphin-Assisted Therapy, a topic which we have been studying for over twenty-five years. 
Dolphin-Assisted Therapy with a severely disabled child and two dolphins eager to interact.
As often happens, they found us through a search on the internet. And as also often happens, we gave them the information they were searching for despite their not offering to compensate us for the expertise, time, and effort we were asked to contribute. How odd it seems to us that some people who claim to know dolphins, who make a study of them, or do films about them, do not pay attention to some of the lessons to be learned from our relationships with them. Especially the lessons about cooperation, that generosity of spirit that ensures strong, healthy, and continuing bonds of trust and mutual support.

Cooperation among “dolphin people” sometimes seems to be as lacking as among any other segment of the human population. We wonder why.

Additionally, when we made an offer to be available as continuing consultants on their film project, they rejected it upon this basis:

“…unfortunately we've decided not to film any captive dolphins in the movie.  We're interested in their healing abilities but serveral of the people we've worked with on the film agreed to work together on the bases of only filming wild dolphins [sic]

How sad. Our response included these thoughts…

“It is too bad you and your cohorts are so restrictive in your thinking. We love our interactions with free-ranging dolphins, but for therapy, a safe and controlled, and easily accessible environment is necessary. For that reason, we have paid a lot of attention to those dolphins living among humans, in constructed environments.

These dolphins are either rescued or have been born among humans. Those rescued would have been dead long ago if not rescued, rehabilitated, and promised a lifetime of care. None of them have been captured, and thus are not "captive".
Calamity, a rescued dolphin. She was rescued twice, rehabilitated and released once, only to be found again, entangled and badly injured by fishing gear. Unable to survive in the ocean, she has lived among humans for over 20 years.

For people who love dolphins and want to extend themselves in service to them, the dolphins who have stranded and become dependent upon humans are the ones they can serve. Dolphins who live among humans are unique, in that they offer us a direct means to begin to understand them, to learn from them, to offer our compassion to another highly developed social species. Note that we say ‘learn from’ and not ‘learn about’. The learning is based on relationships, consistent sharing of the same space and time, often in physical contact with each other.

We refer here to the "trainers" and vets and volunteers and others who live with and care for dolphins as their mission in life. Those who stand along a shore and view them from afar sometimes think of themselves as loving dolphins so much that they will not engage with them directly, fearful of disturbing their freedom. These people do not understand dolphins except as abstractions, the subjects of the research of others.

Do you, or your people, see humans who live in facilities for long-term care as less than deserving of the care we give to other humans? Would you have them turned out onto the streets when they are able to walk if they continue to have other needs? Would you be willing to go into a long-term care facility and euthanise the patients? This is the position of those who see the dolphins under human care, after being rescued, as captive and unworthy of their loving attentions. In England, this is the law, to euthanise any dolphin who might survive only if it is cared for by humans. This law was brought into force by those that made ‘dolphinariums’ illegal. There is no place for them to live if they survive the beach but cannot go back to the ocean.

We have discussed these issues many times over the years with the likes of Ric O'Barry and others, who see all dolphins under human care as unworthy of this kind of love and care, who should be force-fed contraceptives to prevent their having offspring, and this kept up until they die. This, of course, ignores the continuing movement into human care around the world of dolphins whose plight calls upon human compassion to care for them. They will always be arriving on the shore, in need of human compassion. The goal of preventing procreation also ignores the social needs of the dolphins, to bear and care for their offspring.
One of Calamity's offspring, young Bella.
If you want to do a film that includes the whole story of our deep connection to dolphins, how can you ignore those whose sea-born freedom, their destiny, has been given into the hands of humans?

Will you also ignore the stranding organisations who pour tens of thousands of human hours and untold hundreds of thousands of dollars into caring for dolphins, some of whom will have to be given care for whatever lifetime they succeed in having? Have they created "captured" dolphins?

What are the spiritual implications of the life of a dolphin born among humans? It does not belong in the sea, and it does great service as a bridge between lives. It experiences an extraordinary life, learning, playing, sharing, singing it's musical language with other dolphins and among among humans. Is its life without meaning, or ‘inauthentic’ in some way?
This young woman was blinded in an auto accident eleven months before this picture was taken. The opportunity to swim with Bella was her 21st birthday gift. For both Bella and this young woman, this moment was a meaningful moment.
We have become friends (since her birth) with an extraordinary dolphin named Bella. She was born of a rescued father and a rescued mother. Her life is one of continuing exploration, delight in discovery, playful games, close physical contact with humans, and she serves as an excellent Ambassador between her species and ours. Is she to be ignored, force-fed contraceptives, and made to not experience the joys and lessons of motherhood?

What is freedom, in your view? Is it a condition only of the body or of the body and the spirit? Do you know any ‘free’ people who live in small flats in cities? We bet you do. How about humans who are trapped and constrained in their lives, who live in remote settings far from a city? It is a projection of humans that dolphins who live among humans are not ‘free’. They are at liberty, to experience life as best they can in the circumstances that destiny has wrought for them. While movement across great distance is not possible for them, the freedom to live, to learn, to express, and to experience relationships is no less than anywhere else.
Buck meets Tenzin, the Dalai Lama's translator.

One of the dolphins we have come to know, Buck, is 43 years old, and has lived among humans for 42 years. He is well adjusted, healthy, happy, friendly, and a beautiful example of a dolphin who is totally trustworthy, calm among people, able to do much to educate and inspire humans....and he has had unusually caring and non-harsh interactions with humans since his rescue at age 1. No strict operant conditioning, only a cooperative and fully interactive "training system" has ever been used with him.

The lesson here is that dolphins can, and will, do very well among us if we do not ask of them what would stress humans just as much. Inappropriate training systems, by people who have yet to grasp the full nature of the dolphin, has given us the impression that some dolphins are not able to thrive being among us. This is really a non-issue, based on limited understanding. It is a human issue, not a dolphin one.

I am saddened to think that you may take your opportunity to do "the definitive film on dolphins" and not be willing to look at the whole picture. If you do as you suggest, you will do no more than all the others who have done the same, ignoring the very important story of the deeper, closer, more personal and intimate relationships where we care for those whose destiny has brought them to live among us.

If Dolphin-Assisted Therapy is interesting to you, you will not be able to tell the whole story without filming dolphins under human care, where humans and dolphins benefit by working and playing together.”

A profoundly autistic child who had never looked a human in the eye, nor spoken a word. After two weeks of Dolphin-Assisted Therapy, we witnessed her speaking, looking with interest into the eyes of others...a changed life.

 We have to wonder, sometimes, how deeply the thoughts of those who 'love dolphins' have gone. Caring for them, in all of the many circumstances they find themselves in, requires a many-faceted response.

The Ambassadors