Ukraine War, October 9, 2022: Inter-species slavery–Russian military dolphins guarding the Kerch Strait Bridge

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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.


1) Eleonora Goldman, “Crimean bridge construction boosts dolphin population in Kerch Strait, Russia Beyond, February 28, 2017;

2) Will Maule, “Vladimir Putin using killer dolphins to defend key waters as Crimea bridge blown up; Those behind the bridge explosion managed to evade a series of defence systems including fighter jets, warships and – believe it or not – killer dolphins; Vladimir Putin is said to have a unit of military-trained dolphins,” The Mirror, October 9, 2022 (01;59);

3) Team Proto Animal, “Are dolphins intelligent as humans?” Proto Animal March 25, 2021 ;

4) James Crisp, “Europe’s new ‘Iron Lady’; Kaja Kallas says the West mustn’t negotiate with Putin; Estonia’s PM, who calls Margaret Thatcher ‘an inspiration’, has also told Russians fleeing (the) draft they cannot seek asylum in her country,” The Telegraph, October 8, 2022 (6:28 pm);


Flight of Fancy

One fact to emerge from the explosion of a bomb on the Kerch Strait Bridge is that Russians have been using “military dolphins” to guard it. The U.S. has also used military dolphins for many years.

As the Proto Animal Team article explains, dolphins have a sophisticated brain and intelligence.

By one measure they are far more intelligent than humans. They don’t make war on each other. Also, they appear to speak a universal language, at least among a single species, and are not divided by linguistic barriers like humans are.

Is it moral to virtually enslave these animals and train them to serve in the military forces of different countries?

The moral question appears to be particularly acute when you consider that they don’t wage war against one another.

They represent a prime example of what might be termed “inter-species slavery”, the kidnapping by one species of highly sensitive and intelligent members of another to act as servants and essentially as slaves of the first. Here the inter-species slavery is aggravated by the fact the members of the captured species are being used for military purposes when they don’t engage in war against their own species.

Of course, the phenomenon of inter-species slavery is not new. Hannibal used his military elephants to cross the Alps and take his Cathaginian campaign to Italy itself.

Before being pressed into military service, dolphins don’t even have the benefit of a draft lottery. Indeed, they don’t even benefit from a draft system based on law, and have no opportunity to present their case in court. There is no provision for conscientious objectors, of whom there would presumably be many since on their own they themselves do not resort to war.

It is time to consider the morality of inter-species slavery, particularly in the case of dolphins who are captured and forced to serve as slaves in a country such as Russia, which aggressively wages war in violation of the most fundamental legal norms of the human species.

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About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.