Animal Aid Magazine

Why India Calls Dolphins Non Human Persons

By Diane Small

If you’ve been following Eluxe Animal Aid, you’ll know that we are passionate here about conserving endangered species and protecting the rights of animals, especially those that demonstrate sharp intelligence and awareness.

We find it fascinating that after having taught chimps, gorillas and other primates sign language, many scientists now know that these animals can communicate a range of emotions and demonstrate intelligence surpassing that of most young children. For that reason, they argue these animals should be granted ‘non human persons’ status.

Dolphins Non Human Persons

What that entails is not, obviously, giving animals ‘human rights’, but instead protecting them from grievous harm, such as using them in medical testing or research. It also means recognising that these animals should not be treated as resources for human exploitation, but as beings with thoughts, feelings, personalities and cultures. In fact, steps have been taken to do this – in  2002, Germany guaranteed rights to all animals, becoming the first EU country to do so, but New Zealand preceded that move in 1999, when they granted basic rights to great apes. The Balearic Parliament followed suit in 2008 – and now India has granted dolphins the same rights. And with good reason.

MRI scans of dolphins’ brains show that these mammals are even more intelligent than chimpanzees, and have a high degree of self awareness and emotional complexity, which won’t surprise anyone who has ever closely observed these animals, be it in the wild or even in a documentary. On those grounds, the Indian government has decided to completely ban dolphinariums and other commercial entertainment that involves the capture and confinement of cetacean species such as orcas and bottlenose dolphins.

Dolphins Non Human Persons

“The majority of dolphins and whales in captivity have been sourced through wild captures in Japan, in Taiji, in the Caribbean, in the Solomon Islands and parts of Russia. These captures are very violent,”  said Puja Mitra from the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO) in an interview with DW magazine.

“They drive groups of dolphins into shallow bay areas where young females whose bodies are unmarked and are thought to be suitable for display are removed. The rest are often slaughtered.”

Mitra argued that the experience of captivity is a form of torture for orcas and dolphins. Because they navigate by using sonar signals, when they are captured in tanks, these beings become extremely distressed due to the reverberations of their signals bouncing off the walls. In the same interview, Mitra described dolphins banging their heads on the walls and orcas wearing away their teeth as they pulled at bars and bit walls.


India is now only one of four countries that have banned  the capture and import of cetaceans for the purpose of commercial entertainment. Costa Rica, Hungary and Chile are the other three.

The question is: why haven’t more countries banned these cruel practices? And when will more species be given such rights?

To see an adorable video about saving the fishies, click here.  All images: Pixabay

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