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NhRP Supports New Bill to End the Capture And Breeding of Whales for Public Display

By Courtney Fern

Today Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Representative Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings (SWIMS) Act, which would end the future capture and breeding of whales for public display. The SWIMS Act is the first federal legislation the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) has helped develop as it begins to work with members of Congress.

The SWIMS Act would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to prohibit the taking, importation, or exportation of orcas, beluga whales, pilot whales, and false killer whales for the purpose of public display unless the animal is being transported to a sanctuary setting or released to the wild. The bill further amends the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit any breeding of these species for future public display.

The bill references scientific evidence of the cognitive, emotional, and social complexity of whales and recognizes the importance of prioritizing the autonomy of whales as individuals, which the NhRP applauds. Similar language underlies the NhRP’s legal arguments. The bill also underscores how whales suffer when held in captivity in tanks that cannot meet their complex physical, emotional, and social needs.  

As part of our commitment to advocating in the halls of power for the freedom of autonomous nonhuman beings like whales, we’re honored to have been able to work with a longtime, passionate animal advocate like Representative Schiff in the lead-up to this bill’s introduction. We look forward to working with Representative Schiff’s office, the SWIMS Act cosponsors, and the strong coalition of endorsing organizations to ensure its passage.

You can help by calling your congressional representatives to ask them to cosponsor the SWIMS Act. You can find your Representative’s and Senators’ contact information here. When you call, tell the person who answers (or leave a voicemail saying): “I am a constituent of [Senator/Representative] [last name] and I am calling to ask them to cosponsor the SWIMS Act, which will ban the future capture and breeding of whales for public display. Whales are cognitively and emotionally complex beings who suffer in captivity and deserve to live freely.

In the words of the NhRP’s founder and president Steven M. Wise: “The science is clear that species such as whales and elephants need and want to live freely just as we do. We believe it’s time for the law to catch up.”

Thank you!

Read the text of the SWIMS Act here and our press release here.

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