What Rights Do Animals Really Have?

Fee O'Shea
3 min readMay 2

The Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans was created in 2010 to give dolphins and whales non-human rights, including freedom of movement and residence.

It’s almost laughable because even in 2023, dolphins and whales are still being abused, captured and killed. The famous slaughtering of dolphins in Taiji harbour, as seen in the documentary ‘The Cove’, is still happening even though the fishermen have guaranteed that the killing is ‘humane’ now. What a joke — no such thing as ‘humane killing’ exists.

Humane as defined by the Merriman-Webster dictionary:

humane: [adjective] marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals.

How can you show these traits when slaughtering healthy animals who don’t want to die?

We have human rights — and look how we manage that. It’s abysmal — we can’t even get that right, so how will anyone think that by applying cetacean rights, anything will change the fact that dolphins and whales will still be abused?

But this post is more about the rights we give to all animals, not just those we identify as human-like, such as the great ape, dolphins, whales, and elephants.

We used to believe that humans were the most intelligent because we used tools. Well, that’s been soundly squashed because many animals, birds and even sea animals, have been documented using tools to get a job done. Animals can also work together, solve problems, and show empathy and love.

Who says we are the dominant species? Sure, we can write poems, invent computers and sing arias. But I think animals don’t need to ‘invent’ things; given freedom, they are in one with nature. And who says animals are not poetical? We already know that pigs sing to their babies, and we haven’t yet learned their language to understand what they say to each other. That will be a fantastic day when we do — imagine what they will be saying about humans!

Back to the rights. What about the rights of the animals we kill to eat? It’s well known that pigs are intelligent, and who says that cows and sheep are not? So, what about their ‘rights’? They may not be as ‘intelligent’…

Fee O'Shea

Gold card carrying vegan NZ author. Passionate about all critters (including humans). Can be seen advocating for the animals or speaking at events.