February 27th, 2012
06:18 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) – A local airline has found itself in hot water with environmentalists over a recent cargo flight of dolphins.

According to the Chinese newspaper China Daily, the airline transported five dolphins from Japan to Vietnam on January 16. An internal memo to the airline staff was leaked boasting of the transaction’s success saying that it earned the company HK$850,000 (US $110,000) in cargo revenue. The memo also included a photograph of the dolphins lying in shallow, narrow containers with their fins protruding, inside the Boeing 733F cargo plane.

The controversy has sparking an online petition at change.org pressuring Hong Kong Airlines to stop carrying live dolphins as cargo. So far, 4000 people have signed.

“They spend at least seven hours in this cruel confinement. Dolphins are neither cargo, nor commerce, nor entertainment” read the petition which describes the plastic funnels used to ship the live dolphins as “flying coffins.”

China Daily, a state-run English newspaper, reported that the five dolphins are believed to be from the Japanese town of Taiji, the scene of an annual dolphin slaughter depicted in the Oscar award winning documentary “The Cove.”

Hong Kong Airlines said “no dolphins were injured during the shipment,”  that they adhere to government rules and International Air Transport Association regulations on live animal transportation and are committed to animal welfare protection. The airline also added in a statement that they were “totally unaware of the complexities” surrounding the “dark side of the dolphin story.”

The airline reportedly made a stopover in Hong Kong and a spokesperson for the Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department confirmed that they were aware of the dolphins in advance but did not carry out any inspection.

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soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. samdebey

    let's put these dummies in closed boxes for 7 hours straight... I'm sure it "won't harm them"

    February 27, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  2. Kyle H. Davis

    "Dolphins are neither cargo, nor commerce, nor entertainment..."

    That's right! They should be known for their only use... as a nice side dish to a steak.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  3. jance

    were aware of the dolphins in

    February 27, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  4. carol


    February 27, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  5. forinfan

    The trip to China is the least of the concerns. That anyone would do business with the Taiji death merchants is beyond me. For more see http://www.seashepherd.org/cove-guardians/ and learn about the horror inflicted on some of the most intelligent beings on the planet. Only shame. No honor in slaughter.

    February 27, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  6. spent

    Why are environmentalist upset about this, for a child is in a womb, living, and they are not upset about abortions.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  7. dr A Kruger

    Good analogy about the womb. Dolphins, also, before birth, are in wombs. Small crates are not much different. At least they are relocated by people, not eaten!

    February 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  8. Kathy Killick

    98 Pantropical Spotted Dolphins including babies and juveniles were driven to exhaustion and cruelly slaughtered in Taiji a few hours ago. A number suffered for 10 minutes or more before dying. The video footage speaks for itself. Follow @SeaShepherd on Twitter and Facebook

    February 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  9. Hong Kong Dolphinwatch

    "relocated" is hardly the word – hunted, trapped, traded, starved etc are more appropriate.

    February 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  10. Cb1111

    To spent
    Actually many of us environmentalists care about both and may even be Christians. It's not mutually excusive. You can want the child in the womb born to a healthy world that God entrusted to us to care for.

    February 27, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  11. Skippinder

    Very interesting article. It sparks even more interesting debate. I would like to present a different take on it.

    The womb situation aside, many would agree that economy seating in flights are not designed to be the most comfortable experience. The heftier passenger in particular may struggle in an average seat size. Humans like dolphins enjoy their space, so if we can tolerate a 5 hour flight in suboptimal conditions, perhaps it is not as cruel to dolphins as environmentalists believe.

    Dogs and cats are locked in cages in a similar manner on planes. And people are very fond of their dogs. So should we have built a state of the art Boeing with inbuilt swimming pool so that the dolphins may enjoy first class 'seating' for free when we are left to the demise of seatbelt regulations and the struggle to get to the toilet from a window seat?

    Yes of course flying a dolphin sounds ridiculus, but this is based on the perception that such practice hurts the dolphin or causes it stress.

    If there was one animal that may understand our motives it would be dolphins. I am against animal cruelty but I believe that domesticated animals accept the life they are shown and find the benefits quite satisfactory.

    If we should be considerate to animals and set them free, and not use them for our entertainment, then why not with dogs? Dogs and cats are capable on their own and have found their place in our homes or in the 'wilderness' of metropolitan cities. They survive regardless but those that are held as pets/hostages clearly appreciate the benefits of domestication/captivity. I use both sets of words as it is worth considering your pet that way. Because that is the way commercial dolphins are viewed by many – as hostages in human captivity. But why? What makes them different? If we have the means to tAke care of their needs then is it cruel to domesticate a tiny proportion of their species?

    We have learnt to reap their skills for our benefits – naval dolphins, entertainment, 'healing' characteristics have been described, etc.

    We do the same with many other animals, and this includes the non vegetarian diet, which is the most popular benefit we get from our subordinate animals.

    I do frown upon animal mistreatment, but not everything we see should be judged thus. Dolphins like other pets should have the right to travel, even by air. They are probably the cleverest of creatures after humans and you may be fooled in thinking they are scared and tormented by the idea of being flown across the world from one show to the next.

    I cannot tell you the true answer to that but I can say that the answer isn't straightforward and certainly shouldn't be presumed to be cruel.

    Never the less it is partly amusing.

    DISCLAIMER: I am no environmentalist or dolphin expert. This script was not made to offend anyone but it is simply my opinion of a general matter, not directly aimed at this dolphin flying situation, which I will admit is controversial.

    February 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  12. Shadow

    Oooooh, I'm sooo sad, I need a tree to hug......

    February 28, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  13. deanna

    Nice Skip, I am inclined to agree with you.

    February 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  14. newmie

    skip – humans are motionless for hours at a time as part of their normal lifestyle (office, sleep, etc) and can get up and move in an aircraft if they so desire. The comparison is absurd.

    March 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  15. sielingfan

    lol, the story "Leaked." That probably did a number on the cabin.

    March 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  16. McBee

    Skip, you're right, you are no environmentalist nor a dolphin expert. In fact you do not even seem to grasp the difference between a domestic and wild animal. Dolphins are not pets, dogs are. (And as for your lame attempt at equaling pet cats and dogs with feral ones (the ones form the " 'wilderness' of metropolitan cities", I really wish you try to pet a feral cat the next time you corner one in a back alley, maybe that'll give you some 'expertise' on the matter....)
    ...As for comparing them with humans, man, I don't know where to start... One glaring difference would be: humans board the planes willingly and know where they are going. (A valid comparison would thus be: You boarding a crowded metro to go to work. vs. Jews being herded and shoved onto trains by Nazis in WW2.)

    March 5, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  17. BB

    Pampas uppity dolphins!

    March 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  18. Aaron P.

    @ McBee

    Skip used much more logic then you did in your egoic desire to express your veiws in what I see as a hostile manner. Now as for Skips explanation it does make sense when reasoning. Cats and dogs start out as wild animals as well as horses, however they can be trained to adapt to a human freindly enviorment. So can dolphins as dolphins have been trained to speak (sonar), assist in baby delivery, flip, dance, and shake fins (Hand shaking) on que. Dogs have been trained to speak (bark) roll over, dance, and shake on que as well.

    Dolphins can be domesticated and usually enjoy human companionship, dolphins are the one creature you will see at an aqaurium that looks happy to be there. Just as many domestic and exotic creatures have to travel by air dolphins are not exempt and its much more humane to fly a dolphin by air then risk the turmoil at sea in a giant aqaurium on a cargo ship that may take weeks or months depending on weather and other varying conditions.

    It seems in your Zeal for animal loving you have chosen to ignore the comparisons skip made or perhaps you absorbed them but didnt fully find the logic in them. How else are dolphins supposed to travel? 7 hours is not very long for traveling. I am a big fan of dolphins and love them and actually plan to setup a dolphin assisted birth with my significant other however I dont think this is an issue of cruelty especially in Asia where the elderly live in cages the size of childrens car beds in ghettos that make harlem look beautiful and work till their fingers are numb for enough to buy rice so that we can buy cheap T-shirts with save the dolphins written on them.

    March 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  19. Rick

    What's the problem, I bet they had more "leg" room than I did on my last flight, and were more comfortable.

    March 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  20. Common Sense

    When I watch dolphins swimming in the ocean, it is apparent to me they enjoy the freedom, jumping out of the water etc..We know they are intellIgent.. Sooooooo, anyone that tries to defend restricting them to a box....has no COMMON SENSE.....

    March 22, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  21. Estefy

    That's an apt answer to an interesting qusetoin

    March 31, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  22. Emma Tameside

    Hi Priyanka, thanks for this story. I understand where the protesters are coming from, but this is a one-time relocation, not some protracted torture. These creatures need to be move quickly and with the minimum amount of complications, to ensure their well-being and ultimately keep them alive. The only alternative to air cargo aircraft would surely be in a water-filled cargo hold of a large ship, which would take days (possible weeks) to reach its destination... an even more uncomfortable and potentially dangerous voyage for these dolphins.

    These animals were taken from Taiji (likely saved from slaughter) and relocated someone where they at least have a chance at living. It's not helpful to pick at the method of extracting them unless some suggested alternatives can be found.

    July 15, 2012 at 9:10 am |
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