Since the 1980s, when commercial whaling was finally banned worldwide, we’ve come to know a great deal more about the minds of marine mammals and many other animals. What we’ve learned suggests that, like the human animal, many other species, including all whales and dolphins studied to date, are thinking, emotional creatures, and are conscious.
We also know that common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), such as those who were killed or forcefully separated from their families at Taiji, have societies and rules, and some sense of empathy, and right and wrong.
This article on animal cognition, altruism, and (irony intended) humanity, seems very relevant to the discussions we’ve been having on morality and instincts. Many of the more intelligent animals, particularly the social ones, show signs of what we would call morality.
The real thrust of this article is about the Japanese dolphin hunters. It seems inconceivable to me that anyone would accept the defense that it’s a tradition. It’s the same excuse usually thrown out to support bull fighting and other animal cruelties.
The tradition defense has been used throughout history to defend abominable practices (such as slavery) and the world would be a much better place if that defense was recognized for the incoherence that it is.