India To Recognize Dolphins As “Non-Human Persons”

non-human persons

Are we moving beyond the human/animal binary? Via Environment News Service:

India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to forbid the keeping of captive dolphins for public entertainment anywhere in the country. In a policy statement released Friday, the ministry said:

“[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 is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose.”

The grassroots Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization, FIAPO, was pleased with the decision. FIAPO spokesperson Puja Mitra called the decision “a huge victory for the dolphins!”

Ric O’Barry, director of the U.S.-based Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project, said, “Not only has the Indian government spoken out against cruelty, they have contributed to an emerging and vital dialogue about the ways we think about dolphins – as thinking, feeling beings.”

27 Comments on "India To Recognize Dolphins As “Non-Human Persons”"

  1. Where do dolphins fit in the caste system?

    • They fit into a system called humanity. You disgust me for the way you judge a whole country with some half baked knowledge you managed gather from wikipedia. This is a positive news article. Let’s stick to celebrating and not talk ill of other cultures now, shall we?

  2. Jin The Ninja | May 28, 2013 at 11:15 am |

    great news, but i doubt other nations will follow suit. i still haven’t heard if the two escaped navy cyborg dolphins that escaped were ever located?

  3. Ted Heistman | May 28, 2013 at 11:52 am |

    thumbs up India

  4. In honor of this fantastical progress

    Fred Neil Dolphins

  5. Anarchy Pony | May 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

    When do the elephants get that right too?

  6. Well that is certainly a better idea than doing this for Corporations. The dolphins, after all, just may show their appreciation.

  7. “Are we moving beyond the human/animal binary?”

    No. The reasoning being used here is that animals which we deem to have a certain levels of intelligence should be given increased moral consideration. Dolphins made the grade for “non-human persons” here, and based on the criteria, maybe chimpanzees and crows will be next. But on the whole I think animals will still receive their present treatment long into the future.

    Also, I don’t think India’s Ministry of Environment should feel too good about themselves here, the only right their giving dolphins is the right to not be detained or captive for entertainment purposes. I’m sure their habitat will still be ravaged both directly and indirectly through India’s actions.

  8. Chaos_Dynamics | May 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm |

    John C. Lilly smiling.

  9. We have a kind of innate chauvinism that’s wholly understandable and probably unavoidable.

    We privilege human over non-human, primate over non-primate, mammal over non-mammal, vertebrate over non-vertebrate and even eukaryote over non-eukaryote.

    Our view of other species’ intelligence is naturally filtered by that chauvinism. This is similar to how people from traditional societies don’t do as well on IQ tests that measure traits favored in industrial civilization. It doesn’t mean those people are stupid, just that their kind of intelligence hasn’t been adequately tested (and if they developed IQ tests, our industrial civilization wouldn’t have prepared us to test well on theirs either).

    So I’m quite ambivalent about the idea of denoting non-humans as persons for a whole host of reasons. I see the chauvinism that drives our estimates of intelligence and say “why isn’t plant intelligence sufficient for them to be protected?”

    Further, in the case of India’s ruling, does it open a door to prosecuting killer whales for predation? If dolphins are legally persons, who upholds their rights in court? How do they communicate with their attorneys? Remote viewing?

    • sveltesvengali | May 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

      My thoughts exactly. Here was my response to a Facebook commenter who said that he would recognize dolphins as being equal to humans when they could play chess or build a pyramid:

      Chess and building a pyramid are very human expressions of our perceived intelligence, which, by necessity and for better or for worse, we are inhibited to determing the barometers of pretty much by ourselves. However, they aren’t necessarily relevant or necessary to dolphin existence and socio-communal dynamics, and thereby dolphin intelligence. Intelligence finds expression in different ways among different species; it may be the case that the way we classify intelligence and situate it around ourselves is entirely anthropocentric and arbitrary, a product of our hubris.

      Hell, we don’t even recognize species that approximate our own societies as “non-human animals”; ants build what are effectively giant underground colonies (ie. the equivalent of giant underground NYCs, Mexico Citys or Sao Paulos, similar to your pyramid example) and yet we don’t acknowledge them as being “non-human persons”, even though their social activities mirror ours in so many conceivable ways (eg. agriculture and gardening, domestication and herding of non-ant insects, organized warfare over food and other resources, similar population density, a possible form of advanced communication [ie. pheronomes], etc.).

      Continuing from that vein, what’s to philosophically or even scientifically say that the communication between two cuttlefish isn’t a conversation that is at least as intelligent as our regular interactions, an expression of an alternate form of advanced communication that we don’t recognize that is perhaps rooted in their ability to perceive light and/or color in a different way? Watching this video gives you a sense of that possibility:

      Food for thought, I hope.

    • sveltesvengali | May 28, 2013 at 2:34 pm |

      Moreover, I agree that vegetarianism can be morally arbitrary, especially in the (possibly pseudoscientific) event of plant perception (intelligence), but even that notwithstanding, what makes it more right to eat a head of lettuce than a cow in those terms?

  10. Sergio Poalsky | May 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm |

    Gotta start charging them rent!

  11. BuzzCoastin | May 28, 2013 at 7:26 pm |

    could human rights be far behind?

  12. Some people debate whether any intelligence not human in origin is valid…or that only mammals with oppose-able thumbs that build things possess souls…

    …but of the two of us, one race is devoted to chasing food, fucking, playing and socializing…the other abandoned freedom and happiness for endless labor to obtain slips of paper that represent theoretical value to exchange for goods and services while sustaining the delusion that life somehow won’t end in death.

    Ten to one says they consider us their not-so-bright cousins.

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