CNSNews.Com ran an interesting article in March about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ opposition to the U.S. Navy’s use of mine-detecting dolphins.
Writer Marc Morano interviewed PETA’s Stephanie Boyles who characterized the Navy’s use of the dolphins as “just ridiculous.” She told Morano,
These are animals that, number one, have not volunteered to take part in this whatsoever. Number two, they are being put in harm’s way . . . when they don’t even know they are in harm’s way.
There have been already enough victims in this world. We don’t have to start adding other species to it.
Boyles goes on to assert that although the dolphins do not realize “they are in harm’s ways” this does not mean that the dolphins don’t have a mind of their own,
Why are we spending time trying to train animals that have lives and minds of their own to try and carry out these tasks for us? That just seems a little archaic, not to mention unreliable.
. . .
They have mind of their owns; they don’t realize the tasks they are being taught to perform are life and death. And when they don’t perform correctly, human lives will be lost. [The dolphins] think this is a game and yet the risk to their lives and the amount of suffering they may endure is great, and we don’t seem to care about that.
Meanwhile Humane Society of the United State marine biologist Naomi Rose offered a more moderate approach to the dolphin issue saying it was “concerned about the welfare” of the dolphins, but stopped short of opposing their use for mine detection. Rose told Morano,
As we have in the past, we will continue to express our concerns to the Navy and Congress about the military use of marine mammals, but while the war continues, we remain focused on the welfare of all those in the combat zone — human and animal.
But it was left to Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy to state the obvious point that animal rights activists always fail to grasp,
My personal priority would be to save human lives and most especially American lives. If the dolphins can do so, hopefully at minimal risks to themselves and at great benefit to us, that seems to me to be a proper rendering of the priorities.
According to a UPI story about the program, the use of dolphins to detect mines goes back to Vietnam era. The dolphins are trained to drop a buoy near a suspected mine, which divers then inspect and detonate any mines they find.
The Navy has never released statistics on how effective the dolphins are at locating mines, but UPI quoted a retired Naval officer who helped create the dolphin program as saying that the dolphins are actually more effective than the mine sweeping ships and typically locate 99.8 percent of mines in tests.
Dolphins Did Not ‘Volunteer’ for War, Animal ‘Rights’ Activists Say Marc Morano, CNSNews.Com, March 26, 2003.
Animal Tales: Dolphins do duty in wartime Alex Cukan, UPI Science News, March 28, 2003.