Hong Kong Airlines is refusing to stop transporting live dolphins captured in Japan despite public uproar over its involvement.
An internal e-mail to staff leaked to Chinese media over the weekend revealed the carrier was trying to expand its live animal transport business after earning $110,000 for shipping five dolphins from Japan to Vietnam in January. The issue reflects the growing pressure from governments and the public on carriers that transport illegal or controversial cargo.
The animals were transported under sedation after being captured at Taiji, the site of the infamous dolphin slaughter featured in the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, according to report. The carrier has since been threatened with a boycott by a range of animal welfare organizations. An online petition against the airline claimed the dolphins had been kept in “flying coffins” for up to seven hours in transit from Osaka to Hanoi.
The Hong Kong Airline’s cargo department would not comment on the dolphins’ fate once delivered to Hanoi or commit to stopping its plans to expand its animal transport business. The internal memo, which included a picture of the dolphins lying in shallow containers inside a Boeing freighter, said the “smooth handling of such special cargo which is time sensitive and vulnerable” demonstrated the carrier’s improved cargo-handling ability.
“Based on the experience we have obtained this time, Hong Kong Airlines cargo will develop the business onward,” the memo stated.
A short statement from the airline said it “was totally unaware of the complexities behind this shipment of five dolphins” and would donate an unspecified sum to animal welfare protection charity.
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