Hong Kong Airlines slated over dolphin cargo

Hong Kong Airlines was under pressure Sunday to stop its live dolphin cargo business after an internal memo describing a recent delivery from Japan to Vietnam was leaked to Chinese media.

More than 2 800 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 ($110 000) 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.

“Hong Kong Airlines is fully committed to the protection of animal welfare,” it said in a statement.

“No dolphin suffered or (was) injured during this shipment.”

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.—AFP

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