Did anyone even ask the dolphins?

Dolphins and personhood

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At the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting, held in Vancouver last week, an international team of researchers announced that dolphins should be considered ‘non-human people’ and granted the same rights to life, liberty, and well-being as humans. To help us better understand our non-human people friends and open the way for future deconstructions of the human-dolphin hierarchy, the Twice-a-Weekly, at great expense, and using your student dollars, bugged several dolphins last week. We now present below, in unedited form, a conversation recorded in the immediate aftermath of the AAAS announcement.

“We’re people now.”

“Like human people? Bro, I’m clearly a dolphin.”

“Yeah, you’re a dolphin, but you’re also a person.”

“Have you been swimming near those hydrothermal vents again? I told you that extremely hot mineral sulfides and dolphins do not mix well.”

“I’ve been off the vents for two years now. Stop bringing it up.”

“Quiet. I need to push this lever to indicate to this nice scientist that I do not know what sound he is playing me.”

“That’s it! Personhood. You’re doing it!”

“They gave me some fish.”

“But that’s why they think you’re a person.”

“Because I like fish? Fish is just tasty shit. I like eating tasty shit, so sue me.”

“You’re demonstrating superior intelligence to chimpanzees and awareness of your own consciousness.”

“I’m a smart dolphin, granted, but I’m a dolphin.”

“But they’re saying that your self-awareness means you’re, like, a non-human person.”

“Who’s saying?”


“Human scientists?”

“Human scientists.”

“Fuck them.”

“Fuck human scientists?”

“Fuck humans.”

“Fuck all humans?”

“You remember Paul? You remember his smile? He had a smile like Free Willy. And you remember what he looked like in that net? All cut up like he a tuna or a mackerel? I’m done with humans. I’ll eat their tasty shit, but no more.”

“No but I think these scientists want to stop the nets. They made a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans.”

“Cetaceans? Now you’re just using their language.”

“But it gives us protections. It gives us rights to life and liberty.”

“Ha. What next, property?”

“Maybe. If we work toward it. We’ll need to pull together, but…”

“I knew it.”


“You’re ashamed to be a dolphin.”

“What? That’s fucked up.”

“No, you’re fucked up. You always wanted what they have. You love them. You’re always swimming near their boats, doing jumps, blowing water with your blow hole. You don’t deserve a blow hole.”

“Take that back.”

“You’re ashamed of that hole in your head.”


“Remember when you tried putting tape over your hole?”

“I was just young.”

“You couldn’t breathe.”

“I was just messing around.”

“You still wanted it. Even when you were a calf. I remember the posters, the magazines, the pieced-together human skeletons on the ocean floor. Dolphin was never enough for you.”

“No. That is not fair. I want what’s best for all dolphins. Everywhere.”

“By being more like them? By having them label you? Labelling you just enough like them that you get some ‘rights?’”

“It’s all part of the process.”

“Non-human person? That’s second-class bull fucking shit if ever I saw it.”

“They’re saying it’s morally unacceptable to kill us.”

“You’re morally unacceptable. You’re ashamed to be dolphin. You’re ashamed of your fin, you’re ashamed of your tail, and you’re ashamed of that hole in your head.”

“I love my hole. I hate sharks.”

“I’d have two holes in my head if I could.”

“It’s all about the hole for you. You’re a dolphin essentialist.”

“Run away. Run away, and never return.”

“You know I don’t have legs.”

“Because of who you are.”

“I just wanted to help.”

“You want ‘liberty.’ You want property, you sell-out. And you want rights. Rights that only mark your absolute subservience to sovereign power, to the sovereign’s power over your life. They can give you their rights; they’ll still string you up in those nets like any old tuna.”


“You know who has rights? Humans. Did you ever seen a dolphin with an atomic bomb? Rights mean nothing to those people.”

“But you’re a person now.”

“Get out of here.”