Slaughtering dolphins not acceptable
Sun-Sentinel - February 7, 2014

It was admirable of Caroline Kennedy to speak up in protest of the annual Taiji dolphin slaughter, but when she tweeted that the U.S. government "opposes drive hunt fisheries," the ambassador surrendered a crucial fallacy to the Japanese: the dolphin is not a fish, and it should not be subjected to the laws and procedures of commercial fishermen.

Just because a dolphin is a mammal does not automatically make it acceptable for the harvest. You cannot throw all mammals in with the cows or sheep. In terms of intelligence –– as measured by brain-to-body-weight ratio –– the bottlenose dolphin ranks slightly below the human, and well above the higher level primates.

But a dolphin is not a primate. It lives in the ocean and, being hot-blooded, requires a thick coat of blubber. Take the blubber out of the brain-to-body-mass equation and the dolphin's brain begins to stack up favorably with the human's.

Details about dolphin cognition are still mysterious to modern scientists. Their evolution has led to the development of an extra cerebral lobe –– the paralimbic ––which might assist in creating sounds, and in transmitting and perceiving 'acoustical' images.

Somehow, dolphins separated in steel tanks can speak with each other; their communicative abilities approach what humans might call telepathy. They have a creative side as well –– they can mimic human symphonies, from bass drums to alto whistles — and compose soaring arrangements in the silent realms, high above the range of the human ear.

The ancient Shinto of Japan believed the world to be inhabited by sacred spirits, or kami: magical deities which both define and transcend nature, and which travel constantly about the world. If the good people of Japan dropped the veil from Taiji for only a moment, they might comprehend that the kami are swimming right before their eyes.

If nothing else, Japan must accept these simple facts: the dolphin is not a fish, nor is it a mammal on the order of cattle. It is a higher-functioning, perhaps a sentient being. Certainly it is more self-aware than the ape. By this reasoning alone, it is clearly unacceptable to butcher these creatures or to sell them into slavery.

Instead of "fishing" for them, or casting them in circus shows, homo sapiens need to take a lesson from the cetaceans –– whose society exists through cooperation, who are free and playful into adulthood, and who have no borders, no politicians, and no great wars.