India Just Banned Dolphin Shows, and the U.S. Should Too


India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to deny the keeping of captive dolphins for public entertainment throughout the nation. The statement, issued by the member secretary of the central zoo authority, said that “confinement in captivity can seriously compromise the welfare and survival of all types of cetaceans by altering their behavior and causing extreme distress.” Henceforth, any request to build a dolphinarium in the sub-continental nation will be recommended for rejection by local governing bodies. India is following suit with Chile, Brazil, and the United Kingdom, by introducing anti-dolphin show legislation to the Government while the United States remains complacent.

The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization, FIAPO, India’s PETA, was at the forefront of the movement to better treat the intelligent cetaceans. Because of FIAPO’s dedication to grassroots activism, they share the distinction with the Ministry of Environment and Forests of, as FIAPO’s spokesperson put it, “setting the benchmark in animal protection for the world.”

To put it bluntly, countries with fewer relavent problems, such as the United States, are now behind India on this issue. India, like many developing nations, is not typically known for its environmental progressivism. Dense urban areas like Kolkata and Mumbai are covered in solid waste and pollution. Often scavenging at roadside, cows, a holy animal of Hindu, in Dehli are often found to have plastic bags and other indigestible refuse in their systems. The Bhopal disaster of 1984, perhaps the worst singular environmental tragedy to date, and other more modern instances of chemical emissions, like the uranium leak of Punjab in 2009, indicate a less than comprehensive regulation chemical containment. And, India’s bodies of water are polluted, largely due to untreated sewage into crucial channels such as the Ganges, which is the home to the Ganges River Dolphin.

With human habitat issues at stake, the conversation about animal protection is not prioritized. However, the importance of big, exotic animals in India for tourism’s benefit has made animal protection a prevalent concept, for the few species that mankind finds novel. Tigers, lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, peacocks, and other exotic creatures of India have specimens that are kept safe in wildlife reserves, thanks to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, and the support of external forces like the World Wildlife Fund. 

However, the decision to ban dolphin exploitation is a distinctly moralistic one. The dolphin, perhaps one of the world's most charismatic animals, is so romanticized that it was put in captivity in the first place. Now, that same romanticism of the Cetacean’s intelligence has lead India to stop putting it on a pedestal. What country will follow suit? If India can make this next logical step, surely the United States can too.