As the International Whaling Commission meets this week to debate the future of whaling, marine biologists say that whales are similar to humans in their capacity to feel and suffer. Recent studies show that whales—like great apes and dolphins—possess a self-awareness, which one neurobiologist says allows them to experience emotional suffering as well as physical pain.
In one experiment, a neurobiologist paced a small mark on dolphins' bodies and had them look at themselves in the mirror. The dolphins reacted to the image and looked at the spot on their bodies, showing they have a sense of self-identity, she said. Brain activity shows they also engage in a form of social interaction some scientists call culture: "Evidence is growing that for at least some cetacean species, culture is both sophisticated and important," a Canadian professor told the Daily Telegraph.