India Declares Dolphins ‘Non-Human Persons’
In a groundbreaking decision, India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests has declared dolphins as ‘non-human persons’ and as such has forbidden their captivity for entertainment purposes.
In a statement, the ministry advised state governments to reject any proposal of any entertainment complex that would house dolphins “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.”
The ministry’s new policy further noted: “Whereas cetaceans, in general, are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behaviour 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 it is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose.”
The effort to categorize cetaceans as non-human persons has been gaining traction since 2011 when a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which included a group of philosophers, conservationists, and animal behaviorists, attempted to gather wide support for a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans from the scientific community.
It seems that the law was passed sometime last year, but only now have a handful of blogs and online publications picked up the story.
For such a revolutionary decision, we are surprised that it hasn’t garnered as much media attention as it should have. We can only hope that more countries (most particularly Japan where thousands of dolphins are slaughtered annually) become aware of India’s innovative law and quickly follow suit.