Blog | India Takes Another Anti-Captivity Stance

India Takes Another Anti-Captivity Stance

May 18, 2013 by Laura Bridgeman


Government Cites High Intelligence as Indication that Keeping Dolphins is Morally Wrong


The Indian Ministry of Forests and Environment has released an official statement indicating that dolphin captivity will not be welcome anywhere in the nation.

The anticipated announcement comes on the heels of other recent Indian governmental decisions stating opposition of dolphin captivity. The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations, Humane Society International / India, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and other organizations have been working to ensure that this decision came to pass, in light of a series of captive facility proposals that were recently announced. The Ministry’s statement that they “have decided not to allow establishment of dolphinarium in the country” will help to discourage any such development from taking place, on the grounds that keeping dolphins captive has been proven as being cruel and morally reprehensible.

The Ministry notes increasing worldwide efforts to bestow basic rights onto dolphins, such as the rights to life, liberty and bodily integrity. “Various scientists… have suggested that the unusually high intelligence… means that dolphins should be seen as “nonhuman persons” and as such should have their own specific rights… (it is) morally unacceptable to keep them for captive entertainment purposes.”

The statement also concedes that cetaceans are “highly intelligent and sensitive ” which makes their confinement all the more painful to bear – claims which are backed by years of scientific study. Many dolphins in captivity today are captured from the wild, separated from their family members and are often forced to watch them be slaughtered before their eyes. These traumatic events, compounded with the complete lack of freedom in captivity, take heavy tolls that contribute to shortened lifespans and the proliferation of disease.

The Ministry’s decision is lauded by organizations and individuals around the world. Ric O’Barry, director of Dolphin Project applauds India’s position: “This is a huge win for dolphins. Not only have they spoken out against cruelty, they have contributed to an emerging and vital dialogue about the ways we think about dolphins – as thinking, feeling beings rather than pieces of property to make money off of.”

This decision sets an important precedent that other nations are now challenged to follow. 

Official Statement: 

F. No. 20-1/2010-CZA(M) DATE: 17.05.2013

Sub:- Policy on establishment of dolphinarium – Regarding.

Time and again, it has been brought to the notice of this Ministry that the State Governments through various departments, organizations, tourism development corporations in particular, have been planning to develop dolphinarium in the State with main aim to attract tourism for commercial purpose with the intention of organizing dolphin show etc.

Whereas under Section 2(39) of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 the definition of ‘zoo’ is given as an establishment, whether stationary or mobile, where captive animals are kept for exhibition to the public [and includes a circus and rescue centres but does not include an establishment of a licensed dealer in captive animals.]” and as such, the dolphinarium will fall under the definition of ‘zoo’,

Whereas as per 38H (1) of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, no zoo shall be operated without being recognized by Central Zoo Authority and as per Section 38H (1A) a zoo shall not be established without obtaining prior approval of the Central Zoo Authority. Moreover, such zoo requires approval of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in terms of the Order dated 20.11.2000 passed in W. P. No. 47/1998-Navin M. Raheja V/s Union of India and Ors.

Whereas as per Section 38H (4) of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, no recognition to a zoo shall be granted unless the Central Zoo Authority is satisfied that it is for the interest of protection and conservation of wildlife,

Whereas the Gangetic dolphin and Snubfin dolphin are listed in Schedule-I and all Cetacean species are listed in Schedule II part I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972,

Whereas Government of India has declared Gangetic Dolphin as its national aquatic animal with a view to protect these endangered species,

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,

Whereas , cetaceans in general do not survive well in captivity. Confinement in captivity can seriously compromise the welfare and survival of all types of cetaceans by altering their behaviour and causing extreme distress.

Therefore, in view of the foregoing, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India have decided not to allow establishment of dolpinarium in the country. 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.

Yours faithfully,
(B. S. Bonal)
Member Secretary



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