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The rights of whales and dolphins

Why do whales and dolphins deserve the right to live free and healthy lives?

There are compelling reasons why whales and dolphins are special and deserving of our respect, and protection. WDC believes they have intrinsic value; which should be recognised in law.

sperm-whale-cutout_PNG

Like us, whales and dolphins are intelligent beings, capable of experiencing pleasure and suffering pain.

Like us, many live in complex social groups, some pass on culture through generations, engage in play and we believe, even grieve the loss of family and friends. Understanding and appreciating this social complexity is essential to ensure that whale and dolphin populations not only survive, but thrive.

There are compelling reasons why whales and dolphins are special and deserving of our respect, and protection. WDC believes they have intrinsic value; which should be recognised in law.

Like us, whales and dolphins are intelligent beings, capable of experiencing pleasure and suffering pain.

Like us, many live in complex social groups, some pass on culture through generations, engage in play and we believe, even grieve the loss of family and friends. Understanding and appreciating this social complexity is essential to ensure that whale and dolphin populations not only survive, but thrive.

How much do we really know about them?

Scientists around the world are constantly surprised by whales and dolphins, the complexity of their social lives, and their incredible communication skills and intelligence.

We have so much to learn – about these amazing individuals, and about compassion for the other species with which we share our blue planet. We’re discovering more all the time, yet WDC believes we know ‘enough’ to grant whales and dolphins rights.

  • There is clear scientific evidence that, like humans, some whales and dolphins are highly intelligent.
  • Many socialize and  live in complex societies
  • Some exhibit play behaviour, very likely just for fun
  • There is evidence that some species grieve for their dead
  • Some species have cultural ways of behaving, which they pass on to their offspring and their peers.

Some species possess brain cells known as spindle neurons, believed to be associated with empathy and emotional intelligence. People used to think that these cells were only found in the brains of humans and some other primates.

Some individuals have specific roles to play within their communities as leaders and innovators,– just like us. And, like us, they have the right to live in a world where they are safe and free.

The more we discover, the more we are inspired and humbled. The more we learn, the more our human-centric view of the world is challenged as we realise our responsibilities towards other intelligent beings with whom we share our blue planet.

Gray whale

We hope that one day we will celebrate whale and dolphin rights being recognised in law. When these rights are recognised; whaling will not be allowed, and no human will be able to own a whale or dolphin, or cause them deliberate harm.

Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins

To help us achieve our aim, WDC played a key role in developing a ‘declaration’, which you can sign to show your support.

Dive deeper

Whale and dolphin culture

What have scientists learnt so far about culture in whales and dolphins?

Humpback whale

Sentient and sapient whales and dolphins

Whales and dolphin have emotions and feelings and live complex, diverse lives.

Risso's dolphin

Scientific evidence for whale and dolphin rights

The science behind the argument for whale and dolphin rights.

Sperm whale

Personhood - who are whales and dolphins?

Whales and dolphins are a 'who' not a 'what'. So how should we treat them?

Orca spyhop

Please help us protect whales and dolphins and their homes

Do you agree that whales and dolphins have a right to live free and healthy lives, safe from the threats of whaling, captivity, pollution and fishing fleets?

Help WDC establish the recognition of whale and dolphin cultures into global and local conservation policy.

Orca - Rob Lott

Adopt

Adopt a whale or dolphin and help us end captivity.

Bottlenose dolphins leaping

Donate

Your gift will help us ensure the needs of whales and dolphins gain proper recognition.

Humpback whale spyhop

Fundraise

Run, bake, walk, cycle… what could you do to help?