How come whales and dolphins don’t have legal personhood status when corporations do? That is the nagging question that repeats itself over and over in my mind as I’m watching By All Rights, a new 58- minute documentary directed by Stan Minasian and made possible with funding from Friends of Animals and the Summerlee Foundation.
By All Rights boldly makes the case for providing whales and dolphins with legal personhood status, a case that takes into consideration their culture, intelligence and their many similarities to humans. Such a change in status would allow lawyers to sue on behalf of these autonomous mammals when they suffer harm from such human activities as the use of sonar, captivity and ocean pollution.
“If we took a segment of average Americans and brought them in to hear the arguments for personhood—the moral arguments, legal arguments and biological arguments for personhood for corporations and personhood for whales and dolphins, I really believe that a majority of those people would come out with a strong preference for personhood for the whale and dolphin versus the corporation,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program.
Since it’s impossible to get the majority of American’s into a courtroom to do what Harris suggests, By All Rights is the next best thing. Viewers hear scientists interpret evidence of culture within whale and dolphin societies, see how researchers prove the exceedingly rare element of self-recognition in bottlenose dolphins and watch as witnesses recount observing human-like behaviors in whales and dolphins.