The latest defender of the rights of dolphins as non-human persons is Remus Cernea, a member of the Romanian Parliament. Cernea introduced draft legislation on Feb. 4 to the Romanian Parliament arguing that dolphins as well as other cetaceans (whales, porpoises, and other sea mammals) have a human-like level of intelligence and awareness that warrants them rights to “life, bodily integrity, and to be free from any acts of cruelty.
Personhood for cetaceans has been trending in past years, most recently with the agreement made last September by India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests to ban the captivity and use of all cetaceans for the purposes of entertainment. India’s decision came after activists protested the opening of state-funded marine parks in which dolphins and other cetaceans would be held.
As early as 2011, the issue of sea mammal rights has been visible on an international level. At the Association for the Advancement of Science (AAS) conference in Helsinki in 2011 the issue of cetacean personhood and sea mammal rights spurred the creation and support of a Cetacean Bill of Rights. In the bill, rights of movement, residence and life for cetaceans were finally established.
In line with the specific Bill of Rights established in Helsinki, Louie Psihoyos, director of “The Cove” – a documentary about the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan – sent a letter to accompany Cernea’s proposed bill echoing the sentiments established in Helsinki.
“It is clear that a dolphin’s capacities to think, feel, experience and manipulate its environment are on par with the capacities of a human being,” Psihoyos said. “For this reason, we believe that dolphins should be afforded the rights of non-human persons and be protected by law.”