Animal Others, Other People: Exploring Cetacean Personhood in Zakes Mda’s The Whale Caller

  • Craig Smith
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


Recently, the government of India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests gave animal rights advocates reason to celebrate when it passed a legislation declaring that dolphins and other cetaceans henceforth are to be recognized as nonhuman persons, and, as such, are bearers of the rights attendant to the status of personhood. Accordingly, the new legislation specifically forbids the use of whales, dolphins, and porpoises for entertainment purposes, and, indeed, goes one step further in making it illegal to hold these animals captive anywhere in India (Ketler). The government of India’s decision followed similar decisions by governments in Costa Rica, Hungary, and Chile (Bancroft-Hinchey), and perhaps suggests that, of all the animal species with whom human beings share the planet, cetaceans are coming increasingly to be perceived as the most like us. If, as Gary Francione has it, “[a]nimal ownership as a legal institution inevitably has the effect of treating animals as commodities” (125), these nations’ rethinking of their respective legal institutions—and, indeed, of the anthropocentric assumptions that undergird them—offers substantial safeguards against the continued commodification of at least some high-order mammals and invests them with a degree of moral relevance that is typically reserved for human beings.


Moral Relevance Fine Discrimination Animal Consciousness Entertainment Purpose Nonhuman World 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Craig Smith 2016

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  • Craig Smith

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