(Artist credit: Christian Lassen)
I don't think it is anthropomorphizing when us cetacean lovers fight for the rights of these mammals. One can argue that might be part of it, but the other part is pretty simple, at least to me. Dolphins, for example, have repeatedly shown empathy and compassion for not only themselves and the members of their pods, but for other species as well. Stories abound from centuries upon centuries before we were born about dolphins rescuing people or animals in distress in the sea.
I hope I am not engaging in any copyright infringement here, but I really want to share some examples from Diana Reiss's book, The Dolphin in the Mirror.
One high profile occasion occurred with Elian Gonazalez. I'm sure most people remember him. At the time, he was a six year old boy fleeing Cuba with his mother back in 2000 and had survived for two days in the Caribbean lying on an inner tube after his boat sank. His mother had unfortunately gone down with the boat. Two fishermen who plucked Elian from the sea said there were dolphins circling the boy on his tube. And Elian himself told reporters that dolphins surrounded him and would push him back up onto the mini raft when he was losing strength and slipping off. The boy claimed that the only time he felt safe was when the dolphins appeared.
Diana Reiss went on to share a couple of other stories of people who were rescued by dolphins when the Asian tsunami hit and another story from a woman in Greece. One family wondered if the dolphins had special sensory systems that warned of impending disaster because suddenly they had a pod of dolphins circling their craft who proceeded to push the boat to shore. Then the tsunami hit. The family was convinced that the dolphins saved them. The woman from Greece called Diana Reiss and claimed dolphins saved her life too. She shared she would go swimming often, and she would see dolphins, but they wouldn't come near her. But on one occasion she got into trouble and thought she was going to drown. She felt a nudge and she was being pushed rapidly towards shore. The dolphin saved her life.
Another story happened off the coast of Venezuela near Isla de Margarita. A man, Tony Salazar was on a sailboat with his brother participating in a Regatta in June 1997. The seas were choppy and it was quite windy, Salazar fell overboard. Because the boat was moving so fast, it disappeared quickly from view. He thought he was going to die, and after a half hour of struggling, he was suddenly surrounded by dolphins. His boat crew were searching frantically for him and zig zagging all over the place. They noticed a pair of dolphins would approach them, swim off, return, swim off, and finally the crew realized the dolphins were trying to tell them something. So they followed the dolphins who led them to Salazar who was rescued.
Maybe some of you remember there was a story in the news last summer about an Irish fisherman who had drowned and when his body was found, a pod of dolphins had been keeping a constant vigil around him. Article here: Dolphins Maintain Vigil for Drowned Fisherman in Australia
There are numerous other stories out there documented. Just do a keyword search with your favorite search engine.
Countries like Japan put a high emphasis on science to back up their reasons for why they kill cetaceans. I'd love to know WHY they do not take into consideration all the scientific studies and research that has taken place for years now about cetacean intelligence and their emotional intelligence as well. What is it going to take to get people like this to accept and finally acknowledge that cetaceans are in a class deserving of rights and protection? It just doesn't seem right to me to hear them spout off about all sorts of justifications for doing what they do and yet ignore all the mounting evidence out there that gives them solid, logical, reasonable, and SCIENTIFIC reasons to NOT kill them.
For a lengthy but very interesting reading related to this, check out: Culture, Politics, and Japanese Whaling.
This same argument applies to the Faroe Islands (who claim killing the pilot whales is a matter of local tradition and pride as the most common reason I hear) and Norway, for giving the same excuses of culture and tradition to kill whales.
Many people see whales as majestic and magical creatures whose haunting songs evoke a multitude of emotions in people. Many people see Dolphins often as extensions of themselves given their playfulness, joy, intelligence, and compassion. We feel an unexplainable spiritual and primitive connection with them. And many who have made eye contact with a whale or a dolphin swear they are in the presence of an alien or otherworldly intelligence.
One doesn't need science to explain feelings. It just is. It's like trying to have someone explain God exists but can't prove it. You just know it. You just feel it. It's about faith and knowing deep in your soul.
So maybe we can't argue with the cetacean killers with emotions. But we can with science. The proof is out there. We have to keep presenting it to them. We have to try to get International laws changed to protect these species. And we need to continue to have faith, belief, and hope that our fights will one day soon result in victories and that the songs, clicks, and whistles from our friends will finally be heard and more than that, truly listened to.
They are always saving us. It's long past time for the world to return the favor and to save them.