February 27th, 2012
06:18 AM GMT
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.
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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