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Landmark CA Ruling Recognizes Orcas Have Right to Freedom

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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.”

Via The Dodo

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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0 Comments
  • Bob Smith

    AB-2140 was introduced at the Santa Monica Pier, not San Diego.

  • J Shippy

    Why not a monkey, chimp, or gorillas then? They are smart and know sign language. Oh, but that’s what you have at the San Francisco Zoo. Hypocrite

    • Karl Malloy

      I agree with you… and I also note that California keeps nearly 150,000 primates in tiny cells, stressing them out and making them psychologically damaged. The state is actually under federal control (receivership) because of the mistreatment and terrible conditions it which it has held these poor creatures. These human primates, who are being held in prison cells.

    • Anna

      While zoos are not a shining beacon of animal welfare, you have to aknowledge the vast difference between the life of an animal at a zoo and that of one at SeaWorld. These orcas are part of an amusement park and treated like props. You don’t see the San Fran zoo forcing its gorillas to do backflips every hour on the hour.
      However, one animals welfare should not outweigh another’s. This bill is a step in the right direction and will lead to change for other species of animals.

      • Karl Malloy

        Well, if zoos are OK and only parks are wrong, the bill is terribly targeted, because it only specifies that all animals should be free from captivity, not free from performing backflips.

      • Carrie

        Oh man, just think of all those poor dogs out there who are suffering because they have to do a trick before getting a treat.

        And here I thought animals enjoyed figuring out how to get free food.

  • Karl Malloy

    I wonder if everyone will give up their pets rather than keep them in captivity… do they have a “right to be free from a life of captivity”? There are some of us out there who think there are greater crimes than keeping orcas in captivity… in fact, I think it’s ridiculous that we so cavalierly sterilize our house pets. I honestly am not sure I could bring myself to do it (take one in for the surgery, though my pets are all rescues that were already sterilized). There are few things as basic to life as the ability to reproduce, but for our convenience it’s snip snip with not a single thought about animal rights in that case. People will say “oh it’s so we don’t create unwanted animals”, but like I said, that’s for your convenience rather than doing the hard work of keeping the animal under control and preventing mating opportunities.

    • Jo

      So, people, keep your cats locked in a room or on a short leash. If accident happens, you can always drown the kittens. Or better yet, put them in an air locked box (true story) along with the mother so they will all suffocate in a humane way. You can also like my landlord take the cats somewhere in the box, far enough for them not to know the way back and dump them so that they have full freedom.

    • mary ward

      Karl, orcas are not domesticated, no matter what SeaWorld says.

      • Karl Malloy

        So you support the vivisection of domesticated animals, but you would rail against holding any wild animal in captivity? It’s good to know that your morals pretty much fall exactly on the level of hypocrisy I was exposing – thanks for stepping up to admit it.

        • mary ward

          You are a moron. Some animals are not sentient. You are wrong. Domesticated pets are not the same as wild animals placed in cages.

          • Karl Malloy

            So you practice speciesism, then? Orcas are greater than dogs. I get it. I practice speciesism too… humans are greater than orcas. I am better than whatever species you belong to, one that apparently believes that dogs and cats are not sentient.

            In the vocabulary of nearly every animal rights activist out there, they most certainly are. The EU also disagrees with you, as the Treaty of Amsterdam declares that all animals are “sentient beings”. Peter Singer would be appalled by your claim that they are not, and by your speciesism.

  • mary ward

    It is about darn time San Francisco did something sensible.

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