I spoke to the media from the Romanian Parliament, few hours ago, about my proposal for a draft law for recognizing dolphins as non-human persons.
I gave also to the journalists the letter of support that was sent by the Director of the Academy Award winning documentary The Cove, Mr. Louie Psihoyos. You may find below the draft law and the letter for support:
Presenting the proposal for the Romanian media, at the Palace of the Parliament, February 4th 2014
Draft law for recognizing dolphins as non-human persons
Art.1 All species of dolphins enjoy special protection on the territory of Romania, each individual of this species being considered to be a non-human person.
Art. 2 The hereby law defines a non-human person any being that does not belong to the human species, yet posses a developed intelligence, the capacity to form complex social relations, and is the bearer of the following rights:
1. Right to life
2. Right to bodily integrity, and to be free from any acts of cruelty
3. Right to free movement in their own natural environment, not to be captured or hold in captivity with other purposes other than to be offered medical assistance or to be protected from an impending danger.
4. Right to be protected in the own living natural environment, and not to be separated from the group or family he or she belongs.
Art. 3 Any violation of the rights of non-human persons is forbidden and shall be prosecuted with penalties that are equivalent with those stipulated in the Penal Code for violation of similar rights of human persons.
Art. 4 (1) Any current activity involving holding dolphins in captivity and/or using them in various entertaining facilities will cease in no longer than 12 months from the adoption of the hereby law.
(2) During this 12 month period, all dolphins that are considered fit for reintroduction by the specialists will be released into their natural environment populated by the same species.
(3) The dolphins that do not meet criteria for reintroduction in their natural environment will be placed in specialized care for the rest of their lives, and will no longer be used for entertainment purposes on any other purposes that will contravene the status of non-human persons.
Remus Cernea, Independent MP
Open letter to the Romanian Parliament for supporting a draft law regarding recognizing dolphins as non-human persons
I am the Executive Director of the Oceanic Preservation Society and the director of the Oscar winning film The Cove, a documentary about dolphin hunting in Japan. The film is the first documentary to sweep all the film guilds and won over 70 major film awards around the world. We represent the voice of millions of people around the world that advocate for the well-being of our ocean counterparts, the dolphins.
My organization would like to express our unequivocal support for legislation currently being proposed to the Romanian Parliament to declare dolphins non-human persons.
Dolphins also share many of the capacities that make human beings special and worthy of protection. Their evolutionary path predates humanity’s by some ten million years and along the way they have evolved a brain that rivals our own in size and complexity. Scientists researching genetics at Texas A&M have recently discovered that the dolphin and human genomes are “basically the same.” Lead researcher Dr. David Busbee concluded, “It became very obvious that every human chromosome had a corollary chromosome in the dolphins.”
Besides a large complex brain and similar chromosomal structure we know that dolphins share our common ability to feel pleasure and pain, and to form complex, lasting emotional bonds that can cross species boundaries. These are the things that make human life meaningful and valuable. Because these capacities are shared by dolphins, and sometimes had to a greater degree, we must recognize that cetaceans are due the same moral and legal protections we afford all human beings.
Dolphins have evolved highly developed nervous systems and demonstrate a capacity for intelligence, emotion, and self-awareness that is rivaled by few other species on the planet. Their hearing is at least 10 times more sensitive than that of humans and they have evolved an extra sense, an echolocation system to image their environment in three dimensions. Imaging studies have also shown that the dolphin brain contains up to three times more specialized “spindle” neurons than the human brain. These neurons are thought to function in the processing of emotions and awareness, and have thus been found only in the large brains of higher vertebrates.
Dolphins live in highly complex social groups, in which families and pod-members frequently spend lifetimes together. Strong emotional bonds are fostered by complex communication skills. As an example, we have recently discovered that dolphins call on one another using “unique identifiers” or names. We have documented sophisticated languages that vary by region, indicating that different dialects exist based on geographic location. Along with language, dolphins also transmit knowledge to one another over generations and have distinct patterns of behavior that are analogous to what humans would consider “culture.” Thus the social lives of dolphins are as richly complex and meaningful as humans’.
Dolphins are also the only wild animal in the world known to routinely save the lives of humans. For thousands of years, since Herodotus, dolphins have been documented saving the lives of sailors and drowning humans. They often do this at great personal risk to themselves. Once when diving and filming wild dolphins off a reef in the Tuomotu archipelago of Polynesia, the pod suddenly swam off towards a large great hammerhead shark coming our way. The shark was several times larger than the dolphins, but they rammed the shark repeatedly with their rostrums, pushing it away from us.
Louie Psihoyos, regizorul filmului documentar The Cove, laureat al Premiului Oscar în 2010
Like humans, dolphins demonstrate an intense curiosity about their environment and creativity in manipulating that environment. Their unique sensory capabilities provide highly detailed, three-dimensional images of their physical surroundings using nothing but sound waves. Nonetheless, dolphins kept in captivity are often put on display in tiny concrete tanks surrounded by screaming people and loud music. This is a very distressful—and often life-threatening environment for a wild animal whose primary way of experiencing the world is through sound. The chronic stress and deprivation of a life in captivity in addition to being torn from their natural environment and isolated from their pod inflicts immense emotional trauma on these highly sentient creatures. Dolphins must consciously choose to take each breath, and when the stress of captivity becomes too great, they have been known to commit suicide. Thus, as our understanding of these animals has evolved over recent decades, there is now enough evidence to suggest that it is impossible to adequately replicate a dolphin’s natural environment in captivity.
Extending the same ethical and legal protections to a branch of our mammalian ancestry that routinely shows empathy and compassion for humanity is a logical step in our own evolution as moral beings. At a time in human history when our own species is ravaging the ocean ecosystem at an accelerating pace through pollution, overfishing, and devastating bottom trawling, it is the least we can do to afford these magnificent creatures the right to co-exist in their own natural aquatic ecosystem.
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. For this reason, we believe that dolphins should be afforded the rights of non-human persons and be protected by law.
As a member of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS), Romania has demonstrated an admirable commitment to the conservation of cetaceans in their natural environment.
We implore the Romanian Parliament to seize this opportunity to advance the moral development of humanity, and to uphold this commitment by passing legislation that declares cetaceans “non-human persons,” thereby setting a global standard for marine mammal welfare and conservation.
Oceanic Preservation Society