The 39-year-old activist politician introduced a bill in
parliament last week that would recognize the marine mammals as
"non-human persons", on account of their highly developed
intelligence, personalities and behavior 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
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.
To back his cause, Cernea has received a letter of support from
American filmmaker Louie Psihoyos, famed for a 2009 documentary, The
Cove, about dolphin hunting in Japan.
But gathering domestic support may be tough in a year when Romania
goes to the polls twice, first in the European elections in May and
later to vote for a new president. Animal rights will have to find
space alongside issues such as corruption and raising living
standards and public services in the European Union's second poorest
"At this moment, I have no support," Cernea told Reuters during a
visit to the city of Constanta on the Black Sea coast.
"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.
FISH FOR TRICKS
Cernea, who sports a pony tail and beard and wore a dolphin t-shirt
during an interview on Friday, split from Romania's Green Party to
be an independent MP last year.
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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.
On Friday at Constanta's dolphinarium, to the sound of blaring
music, the dolphins practiced tricks in a green indoor pool, such as
balancing balls on their noses and prodding them through hoops. Each
trick was rewarded with fish from a bucket.
Cernea likened the pool to a prison — a view that brought a sharp
rebuke from the dolphinarium's scientific director, Nicolae
Papadopol, during a discussion with Reuters.
Romania had good enough laws to protects its dolphins without
Cernea's bill, Papadopol said, adding that the dolphin trick shows
had been a source of Romanian pride.
"Romanians have something good (here), and you are coming with this
initiative to destroy it," Papadopol said.
(Reporting by Matthias Williams; editing by Ralph Boulton)
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