India bans dolphin shows

India defines dolphins as ‘non-human persons’ and bans their captivity for entertainment. Photo: AP

WEST PALM BEACH, July 17, 2013 — Last month, India passed groundbreaking rules prohibiting not only dolphin shows, but also forbidding keeping dolphins captive for entertainment purposes anywhere in the country.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests released a statement saying, “Whereas 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.”

The Ministry also requested that state governments reject any application for an enterprise that, “…involves import, capture of cetacean species to establish for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.”

India is only the fourth country to ban dolphin shows. Other countries that forbid captive dolphin entertainment are Costa Rica, Hungary and Chile.

The United States so far has refused to outlaw the highly lucrative dolphin show market. Leaders in the practice include Sea World, the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, and the Atlanta Aquarium.

Activists hope India’s decision will spark others to follow. They note that dolphins living in captivity are miserable, with compromised mental and physical health. They further add that confining the mammals in small tanks, often in chemically treated water, is cruel.

Many experts admit that dolphins generally do not thrive in captivity. Forcing dolphins to live in groups created by humans disrupts their natural hierarchy, altering their natural behavior and causing excessive stress.

Advocates of parks counter that maintaining dolphins in captivity allows study of the animals, helps to understand them and educates people about their importance. They claim that studying dolphins in captivity ultimately helps the  population through breeding programs and scientific studies.

India, however, disagrees.


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Lisa M. Ruth

Lisa M. Ruth started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service and analysis.  After leaving the government, she joined a private intelligence firm in South Florida as President, where she oversaw all research, analysis and reporting.

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