Professor Thomas I White, philosopher from Loyola Marymount University California, argues in his Primer on Non-human Personhood and Cetacean Rights that dolphins qualify as non-human persons. According to White this matters because persons have what philosophers refer to a ‘moral standing’, which means they are entitled to be treated in certain ways.
More than just a ‘101’ on the concept of non-human personhood and associated rights, in this primer White extends his arguments to include the notion of flourishing. He states ‘The central idea I’m advancing is that we need to begin with what cetaceans need in order to flourish—that is, what they need in order to develop the physical, emotional, social and intellectual capabilities inherent in their species which allow them to have a successful and satisfying life’.
White’s view is that ‘the scientific data of the last thirty years makes it quite clear that the slaughter and captivity of dolphins are ethically indefensible’. He believes that ‘anyone who doesn’t recognize this is either unfamiliar with the full body of relevant scientific literature or doesn’t understand the ethical significance of the data’.