Here’s a shortcut to understanding the relocation issue: for the AFCD, the removal of Lantau cattle to Sai Kung has not been to protect cattle from humans and cars. Rather, it’s the other way round.
In a letter from the AFCD Cattle Management Team on January 15, the department refers several times to the cattle as a “nuisance.” The letter says the relocation experiment was necessary “to reduce the disturbance they bring and to avoid the accidents that they cause.”
As the AFCD frontline on all cattle issues, the Cattle Management Team has presumably the best knowledge and understanding of the whole exercise. So it is highly revealing that not once did its explanation mention the well-being of the animals (see the full text below).
After the LBA and other cattle concern groups filed a complaint to LegCo last month, and the publicity this generated, the department clearly felt the need to explain itself.
So the Food and Health Secretary, Ko Wing-man, issued this statement on March 26 in response to a LegCo question. Unlike his colleagues on the cattle team, the secretary managed to make a reference to the need to “minimise the nuisance caused to the community and the potential danger posed to road users and the cattle themselves.”
In the 1300-word statement that is the sole suggestion that the health and safety of the animals may have been any kind of consideration. In context, it appears almost as an afterthought.
But Dr Ko did find his way to mention words ‘nuisance’ and ‘traffic’ six times each. ‘Traffic congestion’ and ‘obstruction to traffic’ each appear twice.
Whatever the factors behind the relocation, the actual needs of the cattle had very little to do with it.
Letter to Ho Pui Han, Chairperson, Association For Tai O Environment and Development, January 15, 2014.
In order to solve the problem of stray cows making a nuisance to residents, this department has since April 2012 planned to take Lantau cattle from a complaints blackspot and relocate them to a place well-removed from residents (eg, Lo Kei Wan), and to allow them to continue living in a situation where they will not create a nuisance. Even so, most cows after relocation however will return to their original location, even more many will rest on the main road.
Along with Lantau development, traffic is daily growing busier. This department has recently received many residents’ complaints, saying cattle are queuing on the road and seriously impacting traffic. In view of this, and after considering the advice of ecological consultants, the department has since last November tested moving some cattle to Sai Kung Country Park to reduce the disturbance they bring and to avoid the accidents that they cause. All cattle are already sterilised and ear-tagged for recognition.
This plan still is at the experimental stage. The department will continue to monitor and assess its results.
Hereby thanking you for your concern for the Lantau cattle.
Cattle Management Team
Animal Management Department