Hong Kong: Campaigning Against Cattle Relocation Policy

Although Hong Kong is a highly industrialized and modern city, agriculture was vibrant several decades ago in rural areas, and back then yellow cattle were the local farmers’ best companions and helpers. Nowadays there is little agricultural activity left and the cattle are retired, with only very few of them still living in rural areas.

In Mui Wo, a rural town on the eastern coast of Lantau Island, there are still 14 yellow cattle living within the community. They were let free by local farmers who gave up cultivation 20 to 30 years ago. However, in a meeting in June 2012, the Mui Wo district rural committee pressured the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to implement a “zero cattle” policy with the pretext that the cattle are distributing the traffic. Eventually a compromise was met within the meeting that only six of the cattle can remain.

Since the meeting was close door without public participation, animal rights activists and local residents, especially those who move in from urban areas oppose to the agreement and insist that all the 14 cattle should be continue to live in the community.

Yellow Cattle in Mui Wo. Photo from inmediahk.net

According to the report [zh] from inmediahk.net, the pressure to relocate the yellow cattle started six years ago because of a development plan:


Six years ago, a similar incident happened. The Planning Department put forward a tourist development plan in Mui Wo and suddenly the yellow cattle became an obstacle to be removed. The development pressure has grown over the past six years as the land price has increased rapidly.

As many local residents and animal rights activists protested again the plan, the rural committee claimed that the eight yellow cattle to be moved will be relocated to the Hong Kong Wetland Park. However, different from water buffalos, yellow cattle have to live in a dry environment and the proposed new home would expose them to skin diseases, explains animal activist Ho Loy.

She has also criticized [zh] the decision making process and the government's animal policy:


The Hong Kong government is very backward in rural governance. The civic affair commissioner has meetings only with rural committee and village heads. The whole discussion is off the record. The rural committee is operated through extended family links, while residents outside the family circle cannot take part in the decision making process. The village heads are not representing the residents, they just follow the decisions made by the family seniors.


The current government policy puts animals into two categories – stray animal and pets. For stray animals, the government will catch them and put them down. “They keep the stray animal for four days, if no one picks them up, animal euthanasia is the only choice.” For stray cattle, they are more difficult to catch, and the process is more cruel.
Save Yellow Cattle's Facebook event picture.

Save Yellow Cattle's Facebook event picture.

A Facebook event page was set up around end of July 2012 to save the yellow cattle in Mui Wo. The activists urged concerned citizens to send an open letter to the government:

據了解,現時梅窩的黃牛,眾居當地多時,屬同一牛家群,自我管理整齊,每天都是一隻跟一隻的走過田野,牛牛和大佛已是大嶼山的代表, 大嶼山的巴士和旅遊宣傳亦有牛的形象; 這些牛的存在,構成了梅窩的獨特鄉土文化。

若人為的將14黃牛家群分開,對牛牛和社區都有很大影響,包括小的牛沒有母親,大的牛沒有牛首,空降別處亦會造成牛首相爭,流離浪盪。 人人皆知這14黃牛的公牛已全部節育,很多居民包括大人小孩, 都知道牠們是梅窩最後一群黃牛,再沒下一代, 對這群黃牛載滿感情,其情殷殷可鍳。

The yellow cattle in Mui Wo have been in the community for very long time. They live together like a big family. Everyday, they walk to the field one by one and they have become a cultural sign for Lantau Island like the Big Buddha [in Po Lin Monastery]. They also appear in tourist guides. The yellow cattle is already part of Mui Wo's rural culture. To separate the cattle by force would seriously affect their lives. The young cattle would lose their mothers and some of them will lose their [herd] leaders. The relocation would also affect the cattle community in the destination site as they have to fight against each other for a new leader. All the 14 cattle have been neutered and they are the last generation of yellow cattle in Mui Wo. The local residents have strong attachment to them, please be more considerate.

So far, more than 4,000 people have shown their support on Facebook and the government has agreed to arrange a meeting between the rural committee and animal rights activists later this week on August 25, 2012.

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