India has banned captive dolphin shows, saying that cetaceans are "non-human people."
by China DeSpain
Categories: Animals, Causes.
Photo: Shutterstock

In a wonderful move for wildlife, India has become the fourth country (along with Costa Rica, Hungary and Chile) to ban captive dolphin and orca shows, a la those featured at “parks” such as Sea World.

India has declared that cetaceans’ high level of intelligence grants them the status of “non-human persons,” which elevates the animals’ rights. The new law partly stems from the fact that cetaceans do not historically fare well in captivity.

India’s Ministry of the Environment and Forests stated in the ban, “Confinement in captivity can seriously compromise the welfare and survival of all types of cetaceans by altering their behaviour and causing extreme distress.”

According to Treehugger, the statement also bans “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.”

The statement continues, “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 dolphin 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.”

Sadly, such measures have failed in the United States and European countries where cetacean performances are still considered big business. Until dolphins and whales receive some measure of constitutional rights (an effort that has thus far failed), it seems that they will continue to be held in captivity and forced into performances.

However, Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer who is now director of the Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project, hopes that India’s bold move will pave the way for dolphins and whales across the world.

“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,” he said.

About China DeSpain

China DeSpain is a San Antonio-based writer and blogger. She loves pop culture, animal rights, health and fitness, international travel, books and wigs. Follow China on Twitter: @ChinaDeSpain

View all posts by China DeSpain →
  • welingkar

    If intelligence were to be solely used as a criteria to judge whether animals could be caged or set free, then the Indian government should also ban confinement of monkeys and other primates.
    I think society should consider all together banning zoos and confinement of animals by individuals.

    It is high time we do that.

    Animals need to be free in their natural habitats. Today technology gives us the means to view them whenever we want to, unlike in the past, where zoos were the only place to see them.

  • Anon

    I think it’s more of a level of sentience, not just intelligence alone. All animals have a level of intelligence, but humans are sentient. Recognizing them as people with rights leads me to believe that the Indian government considers cetaceans to also be sentient. While primates are intelligent, as stated, further studies must be made to deem them sentient, which is highly controversial and not an easy thing to define. While they’re at it, they should consider cephalopods as well.