Bird owners to defy ban on backyard poultry
New Territories residents vow not to surrender their birds voluntarily, saying the government is destroying a tradition
Some chicken farmers in the New Territories remained defiant on the eve of a government ban on backyard poultry yesterday and vowed they would not surrender their birds voluntarily.
They would not say whether they would resort to confrontation to resist the ban but questioned if Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen would give up his carp if pet fish were found to be a hazard.
In Mai Po San Tsuen, near the Mai Po nature reserve in the northwest New Territories, villager Pang Hei said: 'If the government suppresses us, there is little we can do. But do not expect us to surrender our birds. They can come to catch [the birds] if they find them.'
Ms Pang, a fish farmer, still had about 10 chickens and ducks in a small yard on an embankment of her fish pond. She said: 'We have killed some chickens in the past few days. Only a small number are left and they do not run outside. How could they pose a health hazard?'
In Man Uk village, near the border area of Shataukok, some villagers accused the government of being inhumane in forcing them to get rid of their birds.
One, Lau Sau-fung, said: 'Backyard poultry is part of the rural lifestyle. The government is actually destroying our tradition.'
In the past few days, she said, she had cooked some of the chickens and geese she had kept.
In Nim Shue Wan Village, on a hillside behind Discovery Bay on Lantau Island, farmer Wong Siu-ngok said he might release his rooster and several chickens. 'It is a great pain to have to slaughter them,' he said.
Elsewhere in the New Territories, some villagers said they would hide their birds from agricultural officials. One Shataukok villager said: 'We have been raising chickens for decades and we have stayed healthy. Why can't we be allowed to raise chickens? Will the chief executive dump his carp if one day fish are found harmful to man?'
Breeders of racing pigeons also warned they might simply release their birds if the government refused to address their concerns.
Most have applied for a licence, including Freeman Lin Kai-yuen, who keeps 60 pigeons in Sai Kung.
But he warned: 'The licence fee is over $10,000 a year. Few can afford it. And so far we have been kept in the dark on the licensing criteria. We have asked to meet officials. If they do not listen to us, we have no choice but to free our birds.'
Mr Lin said he heard some breeders had started freeing their pigeons to avoid the ban. Another pigeon breeder, Cheng Sum, asked: 'Why does the government not flatten the Bird Garden [in Mongkok] if it is so scared?'
Shopkeeper Ng Wu Mi-mi breathed a sigh of relief after agricultural officials said she could keep the two pet chickens she has in her ground-floor shop in a busy Aberdeen road.
She has applied for a licence to keep the birds - a rooster called Ah Gai and a hen called Gai Lui.
'They told me I could keep them when the application is processed. They are very good and will not make the place dirty. There is no reason my application will be rejected,' she said.
'Ah Gai is a chicken of good luck. After he came, our business became good.'
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department officials are expected to start doing random checks at farms in the New Territories from today.