Humane Society welcomes Navy’s decision to replace dolphins with drones

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, December 3, 2012 14:04 EDT
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A happy dolphin. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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The U.S. Navy’s specially-trained marine animals will soon be out of a job, replaced by a fleet of underwater drones within the next 10 years — and that’s given The Humane Society of the United States reason to smile.

“We have been saying for so many years that they’ve got to work on technology to replace live animals,” Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for the Humane Society, told Raw Story. “The ethical concerns about putting these animals in combat situations or any kind of patrolling where any negative interaction with enemy divers could occur… is very troubling.”

Marine animals have been used by the Navy for many years to patrol under boats and detect explosives in unfamiliar waters. Highly skilled dolphins were even deployed in the Persian Gulf  after 9/11 for those very reasons. However, that work is about to be outsourced to a small, torpedo-like drone device, according to a report this weekend in U-T San Diego.

“Ever since the U.S. became involved in these military conflicts [since 9/11], we’ve backed off criticizing the military because those tactical situations that they encounter, we cannot second guess,” Rose said. “But here they have continued to pursue technological advances and they’ve finally achieved a level where they can replace these animals in the near future.”

Despite the progress, Mike Rothe, biosciences chief at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific in San Diego, told a reporter that only 24 of the Navy’s 80 bomb-detection dolphins will be replaced by drones, making bomb detection the job of robots instead of mammals.

“And we just think that’s fabulous,” Rose added.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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