Remus Cernea is pushing a cause that he acknowledges few of his fellow Romanian lawmakers care about: giving dolphins the same rights as humans. The 39-year-old activist politician introduced a bill in parliament last week that would recognise the marine mammals as "non-human persons", on account of their highly developed intelligence, personalities and behaviour patterns.
The bill, which will be debated in the Romanian upper house in the coming weeks, would make humans and dolphins equal before the law. Dolphin killers would be given the same sentences as murderers of human beings. The bill would also ban the use of dolphins in live entertainment shows. The aim of the bill is to help protect Romania's indigenous dolphins in the Black Sea, Cernea said.
It would also add the country's voice to a global movement against dolphin killings. "At this moment, I have no support," Cernea said. "This law asks you to make a huge step, philosophically speaking, to understand and to accept that somehow there is another species which is quite similar as we are," he added. His constituency, Constanta, is on a strip of coastline where dolphins get entangled in fishing nets and are found dead in their dozens.
The city is also home to the only two dolphins in Romania kept in captivity, both bought from China in 2010. At Constanta's dolphinarium, to the sound of blaring music, the dolphins practise tricks in a green indoor pool, such as balancing balls on their noses and prodding them through hoops. Each trick is rewarded with fish from a bucket. Cernea likens the pool to a prison - a view that brought a sharp rebuke from the dolphinarium's scientific director, Nicolae Papadopol. "Romania had good enough laws to protects its dolphins without Cernea's bill", Papadopol said, adding that the dolphin trick shows have been a source of Romanian pride.