Controversial documentary film The Cove, which deals with the grizzly business of dolphin hunting, will be made available to Japanese viewers online via a popular video sharing website.

The Oscar-winning film will be offered for free to the first 2,000 viewers who access the website from June 21, Nico Nico Douga said.

The documentary, which shows dolphins being herded into a cove and slaughtered, has met with fierce resistance from some groups in Japan. Fears that protests might inconvenience moviegoers have prompted cancellations at two cinemas in Tokyo and one in Osaka, according to Unplugged, the Japan distributor.

We have been receiving criticism of the film from groups who have not yet seen it, Unplugged said on Thursday, encouraging Japanese viewers to use the website's comment feature to debate the film's content.

On Tuesday, dolphin activist Ric O'Barry urged Japanese theatres to screen The Cove, despite threats from groups who see its footage of dolphins being slaughtered as an affront to traditional culture.

O'Barry, a former dolphin trainer from the 1960s television series Flipper, told Reuters Television this week that the cancellations were an assault on democracy.

Directed by former National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos, the documentary follows eco-activists who struggle with Japanese police and fishermen to gain access to a secluded cove in Taiji, southern Japan, where dolphins are hunted.

Nico Nico Douga has over 16 million registered users and allows viewers to post comments on videos in real time.

(Reporting by Benjamin Shatil; Editing by Chris Gallagher)