It's common knowledge that dolphins and whales are "smart." Yet most of us only go so far as to concede that they are among the smartest animals. We relegate them to that most dreaded of categories, convenient to neoliberal agendas and other systems of oppression that exploit "others."
However, we have arrived at a point where we must set aside our culturally ascribed perceptions of what cetaceans are - aquatic mammals with sub-human intelligence - in favor of seeing them for who they are. Sonar, a new organization, is showing the way towards this new understanding.
Being an other-than-human animal on the planet today is akin to being born with a curse. Cetaceans are included in the dehumanized category of animal that affords them little protection or compassion. We don't recognize a dolphin's right to freedom. We allow whales to be blown apart by penthrite harpoons as long as it makes economic sense (and, as is the current case in Japan, and Norway, even if it does not). No other-than-human animal has the right to be alive.
But we are beginning to learn how we have been wrong. Dolphins and whales can be catalysts in this process.
Scientific discoveries are not only challenging what we thought we knew about cetaceans, but are rocking human exceptionalism to its core. As is noted in Social Narratives Surrounding Dolphins:
"Decades of research into dolphin cognition have added new information to our fundamental theories of consciousness itself. Such findings, should they become public knowledge, could alter popular beliefs that identify a fundamental separation between the quality of human minds and those of other animals."
(Reiss, Boyle et al: 2006)
Additionally, Joana Varawa, author of "Mind in the Waters," points out that:
"If we comb through our stories and our encounters with wild whales and dolphins, we find that they seem to hang together along a shining thread - that whales and dolphins know what they are doing, that their actions are purposeful, and stunningly specific to the occasion, that they intend us no harm, that they are aware."
Until now, these discoveries and stories have been scattered and are often behind prohibitive barriers of access for most people. This is what has prevented us from engaging in a collective questioning as to why we refuse to recognize cetaceans' rights.
Sonar addresses this by featuring an online collection of science and stories, available to everyone for free. Sonar serves as a roadmap towards widespread attitude shifts as this knowledge is incorporated into our perceptions and treatment of cetaceans - in personal, political and legal realms.
Current thinking about cetaceans is representative of the fundamental shift that is occurring within our species' collective psyche. We are coming to realize that the world does not revolve around humanity. We cannot continue to support systemic oppression against other-than-humans.
We are all animals. And we are all in this together.
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