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Romanian Politician Seeks to Give Dolphins Legal Personhood

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Romanian politician Remus Cernea, wrote a draft of Romania’s first ever dolphin personhood bill, and is presenting it to the Romanian government asking them to afford dolphins nonhuman personhood under Romanian law. If passed, this law will offer dolphins the same care and respect that is given to humans.

The Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS), the team behind the academy award winning documentary “The Cove,” and the yet to be released “The Heist,” is fully supportive of Romania’s potential new bill. In a letter of support, Louie Psihoyos, executive director of OPS, and director of “The Cove,” writes “Besides a large complex brain and similar chromosomal structure we know that dolphins share our common ability to feel pleasure and pain, and to form complex, lasting emotional bonds that can cross species boundaries. These are the things that make human life meaningful and valuable. Because these capacities are shared by dolphins, and sometimes had to a greater degree, we must recognize that cetaceans are due the same moral and legal protections we afford all human beings.”

Last year, India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests, “advised state governments to ban dolphinariums and other commercial entertainment that involves the capture and confinement of cetacean species such as orcas and bottlenose dolphins.” In a statement, the government said research has clearly established that cetaceans are highly intelligent and sensitive, and that dolphins “should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights.” Although, the Ministry did not actually make them legal persons under the law, they did acknowledge that they “should be seen” as nonhuman persons. By ‘seeing’ them as nonhuman persons, it at least bans the capture and importation of dolphins for commercial entertainment, to India. Also, it enforced the closure of dolphin parks throughout the country.

Cernea’s proposed law to the Romanian government indicates that dolphins should be afforded the following rights:

1. Right to life

2. Right to bodily integrity, and to be free from any acts of cruelty

3. Right to free movement in their own natural environment, not to be captured or h[e]ld in captivity with other purposes other than to be offered medical assistance or to be protected from an impending danger.

4. Right to be protected in the[ir] own living natural environment, and not to be separated from the group or family he or she belongs.

Hopefully, Cernea can influence changes in the law that not only ‘sees’ dolphins as nonhuman persons, but offers them legal status ‘as’ nonhuman persons. If he is successful in convincing the Romanian government to declare dolphins nonhuman personhood status, then there is hope not only that other countries will follow their example concerning dolphins, but it may open doors to eventually have all nonhuman animals declared as legal persons.

If this bill is passed in Romania, it will be because there is enough scientific proof that dolphins have unusually high intelligence and, therefore, deserve similar rights as humans. The question still lies open, as to what about less intelligent creatures? Should they too be afforded the same rights as dolphins? Should intelligence, whichever way it is defined, be a measure of one’s eligibility for the most basic rights? Is it justifiable to confine, or enslave, a nonhuman animal because they are less intelligent  than dolphins? Can anyone, or any species, be deemed too dumb to feel pain, anguish, loss, and love?

Hopefully, the dolphins will be victorious in Romania, but it will be a even more joyous occasion, when all creatures everywhere are free to live their lives as nature intended.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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