Plans ahoof for HK$2m education centre to house unwanted cattle

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 August, 2007, 12:00am

Plans have been drawn up for a HK$2 million educational farm in the Mai Po marshes to provide a permanent home for more than 80 abandoned cattle.

The herd, which includes several buffalo, is facing eviction from an animal refuge in the Tai Tong Valley following a long-running dispute between its manager, Francesca Au Yeung Sin-yue, and landlord Leung Fuk-yuen, a former Yuen Long district councillor.

The World Animal Rights (Charity) Association, which runs the Cows' Home, has applied for government land at Nam Sang Wai to build the farm and its plans are due to come before the Town Planning Board on Friday.

Ms Au Yeung, who is also the charity's chairwoman, has set aside HK$800,000 from its reserves for the project and is planning to launch a HK$1.2 million fund-raising appeal if the board backs the plan.

The WWF, which administers the Mai Po Nature Reserve, has given cautious support to the project, which falls within a zone earmarked for 'comprehensive development and wetland enhancement'.

The proposed farm, on a strip of land next to Nam Sang Wai Road, would include 25 cow sheds, an exhibition area and a multi-purpose visitor centre.

'People from every walk of life will benefit from this educational farm,' Ms Au Yeung said. 'Students will have contact with cows and learn how to respect life and they will also be able to work in an organic vegetable garden and orchard.

'This is the last chance to save the lives of these cows. It is now extremely urgent that we find new land for them. If we can't get the educational farm up and running, I am afraid the cows will have to be slaughtered.'

Ms Au Yeung said she had been trying to find a new site for the Cows' Home since Mr Leung asked her to leave his plot three years ago, but she had been unable to find anywhere suitable.

The water supply to the refuge was cut off in May. Volunteers took water in bottles and buckets from the nearby Society for Abandoned Animals for nearly two months, while a new water pipeline to the Cows' Home was arranged with the Water Supplies Department.

Mr Leung said he had given permission to Ms Au Yeung to use his land free of charge for three months in 1998, on condition that she would look for a permanent home for the 20 cows elsewhere.

But the herd had grown to more than 80 animals, which had been allowed to graze freely outside the area and had trampled on private vegetable plots and ancestral graves, provoking many complaints from villagers.

'We gave verbal notice to her to leave the land and not to damage the graves and other farms behind the Cows' Home more than 10 times,' he said. 'But I didn't cut off the water supply. The water supply was cut by the villagers.

'If she really loves the cows, she should find a better place to feed them.'

Mai Po Nature Reserve manager Lew Young said: 'We would generally be in favour of this proposal. The site could have quite high educational and recreational value and, with appropriate management, it could also be enhanced for wildlife.'

Hundreds of feral cattle and buffalo have roamed the New Territories since many farms were abandoned in the 1950s and 1960s. If residents complain about the animals, they are taken to the government's animal management centre in Sheung Shui, before being either auctioned off or killed.

The Cows' Home buys cattle at the auctions to save their lives.