Landmark CA Ruling Recognizes Orcas Have Right to Freedom
San Francisco has legally recognized that whales, dolphins and porpoises have the right to be free from a life of captivity in a landmark ruling.
The resolution introduced by San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commissioner Russell Tenofsky earlier in 2014 and sponsored by Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project, states that animals deserve “to be free of captivity, and to remain unrestricted in their natural environment.” The Board approved it by mentioning the latest studies that show the animals’ intellectual capabilities and how captivity has been proven to cause psychological stress and premature death.
“This resolution reflects an understanding that what we once believed about dolphins and whales – that they are unthinking automatons – is in fact false, and that they deserve to be free,” said Laura Bridgeman, Campaign and Communications Specialist of the International Marine Mammal Project. “Our laws should be increasingly informed by this knowledge. This is resolution is a step in the right direction.”
The resolution is not an outright ban on parks like SeaWorld like the Orca Welfare and Safety Act (AB 2140) introduced in San Diego earlier this year and currently under study, but activists are hoping that recognizing the animals’ rights will be the first step towards their freedom, especially if other cities follow suit.
“The San Francisco Board of Supervisors did a wonderful thing in recognizing that cetaceans have the right to be unrestricted and free from captivity,” stated Tenofsky. “Hopefully other municipalities will follow suit and provide even further rights and protections for whales and dolphins.”
If that happens, then chances of passing the ban that will release all 10 orcas currently in captivity at SeaWorld San Diego, increase significantly.
“While the resolution is non-binding, it is significant because never before in California history have any cetacean rights been recognized,” said Bridgeman. “We do believe that it’s going to boost the chances that the orca bill will be adopted, especially if other cities follow suit. With each resolution that gets passed, it becomes more and more difficult for SeaWorld to claim that cetaceans belong in captivity.”
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