India recognises dolphins as non-human persons

Dolphins (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Dolphins are one of a number of particularly special animals that are widely recognised to be highly intelligent. This makes them an ideal starting point to assign moral rights and personhood to non-humans. Rather than individuals with inherent value, most animals are currently seen as property and the effort to elevate their status has a lot of hard work ahead of it. That’s not to say that no one is trying, people are, although not always successfully.

In 2004′s Cetacean Community v. Bush, the federal Ninth Circuit court, one step below the Supreme Court, denied legal standing to whales and dolphins harmed by Navy sonar exercises. In February of [2012], a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who argued that Seaworld’s cetaceans should be considered enslaved under the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The debate has engaged with all levels of society, from the citizens on the ground, to the lawmakers and philosophers and even in one of the top scientific journals. Some proponents of marine parks claim that they are there for educational or research purposes but critics say that explanation doesn’t hold water.

Despite all the debates, not much has happened in the US and I was pleasantly surprised when I ran across this link. India has forbidden the building of new dolphinariums (dolphinaria?). The text of the declaration cites as one of the reasons:

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

India is now one of four other countries to ban the capture and import of dolphins. The others are Costa Rica, Hungary, and Chile. This shouldn’t actually be too surprising as apparently India has a history of supporting animal rights. I’m not sure this will change much in the short term but it’s a welcome boost of momentum. Humans are not inherently more important or valuable than any other species and other species do not exist for our use. Our behaviour needs to take into account other living beings capacity for thought and suffering.

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5 thoughts on “India recognises dolphins as non-human persons

  1. To whom it may concern
    I’m an advocate for ANY INNOCENT BEING without a voice. Adult men, women, children, and animals!
    There is a lot of suffering in this world,
    the innocent are being exploited, abused, neglected…animals are for us to love, work, eat, encourage…

  2. Pingback: Those are not valid defences | Evidence & Reason

  3. Pingback: Quicklinks: Animals, animals and torture | Evidence & Reason

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