Highly intelligent and sensitive’ dolphins have gained unprecedented protection, with India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests completely banning dolphinariums, as well as the capture and confinement of cetacean species such as orcas and bottlenose dolphins for public entertainment anywhere in the country.
India, by recognizing dolphins as non-human persons whose rights to life and liberty must be respected, now becomes the fourth country in the world to ban the capture and import of cetaceans for the purpose of commercial entertainment along with Costa Rica, Hungary, and Chile.
Ruling that the capture, transport or display of cetaceans was a violation of the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the Animal Welfare Board of India has advised state governments to reject any proposal to establish a dolphinarium “by any person/persons, organizations, government agencies, private or public enterprises that involves import, capture of cetacean species to establish for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.”
According to the official finding, “Capture and transport is inarguably stressful and dangerous for cetaceans. Mortality rates of captured bottlenose dolphins shoot up six-fold immediately after capture and do not drop down to ‘normal’ levels for up to 35 to 40 days.”
Noting that India’s national aquatic animal, the Ganges River dolphin, as well as the snubfin dolphin are listed in Schedule-I and all cetacean species are listed in Schedule II part I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, the ministry stated that it is important to protect these endangered species from captivity and exploitation.
India just declared dolphins to be non human citizens which means they can no longer be used for entertainment purposes
I love u India ??
— Laura Matsue (@lauramatsue) June 10, 2016
“Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence;
as compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose.”
Welcoming the landmark decision, Dr. Naomi A. Rose, senior scientist at Humane Society International, told TakePart:
“This is a tremendous development. India has over 1 billion people—if captive dolphin display is prohibited there, then surely the rest of the world must soon follow.
The day, when dolphins everywhere in the world are finally safe from the stress and trauma of capture and confinement, may be in sight.”
C Samyukta, the wildlife campaign manager of the Humane Society International/India, termed the action progressive:
“We are overjoyed that the ministry has enacted a ban on keeping dolphins in captivity for entertainment.
The science shows captivity is not in the best interests of marine animals. Now, all states in India must follow the ministry’s policy and forbid the development of dolphinariums.”
Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer who now serves as director of the US-based Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project, applauded India’s new policy:
“This is a huge win for dolphins. Not only has the Indian government spoken out against cruelty, they have contributed to an emerging and vital dialogue about the ways we think about dolphins – as thinking, feeling beings rather than pieces of property to make money off of.”
— Pushkarraj Mehta (@PushkarrajM) June 15, 2016
The movement to re-categorize cetaceans as non-human persons with the right to life, liberty and well-being gained momentum in 2011 in Helsinki, where a group of philosophers, conservationists, animal behaviorists, scientists and ethicists drafted a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans. The official declaration read:
- Every individual cetacean has the right to life.
- No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
- All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
- No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
- Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
- Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
- The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.
- Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.
- No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.
- Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.
The Academy Award-winning movie The Cove documents the major world implications of declaring dolphins non-human persons, setting them free from aquariums and zoos, and putting an end to killing the marine animal for profit.