Dolphins and whales have long been a favorite sight swimming off the shores of sunny Malibu, California. But now, in an historic move that aims to see those marine visitors' status elevated, the seaside community has issued an official proclamation stating that they too deserve basic rights.
According to the statement, approved by the Malibu city council and signed by Mayor Joan House, whales and dolphins "are highly intelligent and emotional creatures... and therefore deserve the right to their own freedom and lives."
While the proclamation, the first of its kind in the United States, may be largely symbolic, city council member Dr. Laura Rosenthal says it's aim is to inspire others into "thinking about the issues in a deeper and more meaningful way and thus change behavior."
Elsewhere, governments have already begun to change the way these animals are regarded. Just last year, officials in India offered a similar sentiment, declaring that dolphins should be seen as non-human persons. Closer to home, however, dolphins and whales are currently protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act -- a law that guards their existence, but which falls short of calling that existence an inherent right.