Hong Kong Airlines is under pressure to stop its live dolphin cargo business after an internal memo was leaked.
The memo describes a recent delivery from Japan to Vietnam and was leaked to Chinese media.
More than 2800 people have signed an online petition at change.org calling for an end to the flights, citing a China Daily newspaper report about a January 16 delivery of five dolphins from Osaka to Hanoi.
The dolphins are believed to have come from the Japanese town of Taiji, the scene of an annual dolphin slaughter depicted in Oscar Award winning documentary “The Cove”, the report said.
“Five Taiji dolphins were transported via cargo flight in ‘flying coffins’ on January 16, 2012. They spent at least seven hours in this cruel confinement,” the petition reads.
“Dolphins are neither cargo, nor commerce, nor entertainment.”
An internal memo to airline staff made no mention of the animal welfare considerations but described the flight as a success that earned HK$850,000 ($102,000) in cargo revenue.
“The smooth handling of such special cargo which is time sensitive and vulnerable demonstrates that Hong Kong Airlines cargo handling capability has further improved,” says the memo cited by the China Daily.
“Based on the experience we have obtained this time, Hong Kong Airlines cargo will develop the business onwards.”
It included a photograph of the dolphins lying in shallow, narrow containers inside the belly of a Boeing 733F cargo plane.
Hong Kong Airlines said it adhered to government rules and International Air Transport Association regulations on live animal transportation.
It added that it was “totally unaware of the complexities” surrounding the “dark side of the dolphin story”, and thanked animal welfare groups for their input.
Unaware? Watch The Cove!
UPDATE: Hong Kong Airlines agreed to stop flying live dolphins in dangerous and cruel conditions after over 6500 change.org members signed a petition directed at the company. The airline came under fire after they admitted flying 5 dolphins in “living coffins” from Osaka to Hanoi in January. On February 29th, 2012, Hong Kong Airlines released a statement saying, “Since it is believed that transportation of this nature can result in endangering wildlife elsewhere, Hong Kong Airlines will immediately ban shipments of this kind.”