In a stunningly progressive move, India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests released a statement on May 17th that they are banning dolphinariums in India.
The State Governments are advised to reject any such proposal for dolphinarium to 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.
Kimmela collaborated with the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO) and their international partners to provide the scientific evidence that convinced the Indian government that it would be morally wrong to keep dolphins in captivity because of their complex intelligence and poor survival in captivity. The Ministry noted this in its preamble, saying:
Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that their 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 [that it] is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose.
Whereas cetaceans in general do not survive well in captivity, [and] confinement in captivity can seriously compromise the welfare and survival of all types of cetaceans by altering their behaviour and causing extreme distress.
The Kimmela Center was originally contacted by FIAPO which was preparing to advise the Animal Welfare Board of India (which advises state governments and wildlife wardens) on efforts to capture, transport or keep dolphins and whales in captivity. The board then ruled that dolphin shows and exhibits would violate the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. In its new policy directive, the Ministry has now ratified that ruling.
The Indian government’s decision is advanced in comparison to the United States, which still permits dolphin captivity for entertainment. Moreover, their acknowledgement that dolphins are nonhuman persons with basic rights is an unprecedented step forward for animal advocacy.