Whales Should Have Inherent Rights? This Washington Town Thinks So

Tory Kallman / shutterstock.com
Tory Kallman / shutterstock.com

When we talk about rights and, more specifically, “inherent” rights, it’s generally understood that these are rights that we deserve as human beings just for being that. As our Constitution says, that includes life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc.

But what if those rights were given to the animal kingdom?

It might seem a bit silly to think about. But for the people of Port Townsend, Washington – or at least the mayor – that’s exactly what they are trying to establish.

According to KING-TV, Mayor David Faber has just made an official proclamation declaring that orcas, also known as killer whales, should have and, therefore, will have “inherent rights.”

To be clear, such a proclamation doesn’t have any real legal standing. It’s not law, nor is it even making any certain demands.

However, as you can imagine, it’s getting a bit of attention. And according to Faber, that’s pretty much the point.

As he told KING, “It’s about getting the agencies that can do something to take notice of demand from the local level.”

If you’re familiar with the Northwestern Coast at all, you’ll know that orcas are one of the most popular and beloved wildlife. In fact, there’s been a whole tourist business built on just getting a glimpse of these incredible animals.

Unfortunately, their population numbers are on the decline.

And that’s precisely why Faber and others are moving to give them more “rights.”

According to the media outlet, the move is also part of a larger movement known as the “Rights of Nature,” which claims that all animals and living things have “the right to protection under the law and representation by a human guardian in a courtroom.”

So far, at least 30 countries, as well as Malibu and San Francisco, California, have joined the movement and made similar declarations of rights for animals and nature, according to Michelle Bender of the Earth’s Law Center. She noted that places such as Toledo, Ohio, near Lake Erie, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have also made similar ordinances in recent months to protect wildlife in the area.

As you all know, animals and nature are crucial to our existence, so maintaining healthy populations and protecting them is of the utmost importance. And even the Bible tells us to be “good stewards” of the land and all it provides.

However, this can get a bit sticky for some, especially when things like “inherent rights” for animals become seemingly more important than humans.

According to Bender, the Rights of Nature movement is not about making animal rights more pressing than human ones. However, it is to point out that more of a balance needs to be found, one in which we protect animals more.

She believes we are “at a point” where some changes have to be made regarding animal protection. We all know that federal guidelines and hunting laws do a lot to do just that, but at this point in human history, it’s also becoming clear that it’s not enough.

The orca is just one example of this, she says. If you didn’t know, orcas have been on the endangered species list pretty much worldwide for decades now. And yet, their populations are still in decline.

As KING-TV reported, the subspecies that reside around the Port Townsend area, known as Southern Resident orcas, have only 73 left to their number, down one from last year, according to data from the Center for Whale Research (CWR).

Clearly, something must be done to ensure this species does not go extinct.

But as I mentioned, and Bender agrees, there must be a balance. Far too often, when numbers like this are noted, laws begin to be passed and go into effect that suddenly declares animal life more important than those of our family members and friends. As a result, livelihoods are cut off, families are left in ruin, and all for the sake of a fish or bug.

The key here will be to ensure that animals can be protected and even allowed to flourish while not taking away from the inherent rights of humankind, which God commanded to fill and lord over the earth.