Cows' fate to be sealed by Lunar New Year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 January, 2010, 12:00am

The fate of more than 100 cows rescued from the slaughterhouse will be decided by the Lunar New Year, when the operator of a cattle shelter is forced to move from a Yuen Long farm after 10 years.

Francesca Au Yeung Sin-yue, known as Yeung Yeung to friends, was served a notice about two months ago by her landlords telling her she needed to relocate her Cows' Home shelter and vacate the farm before the Lunar New Year next month. The plot covers about 50,000-60,000 square feet and is owned by up to seven people, including Yuen Long district councillor Leung Fuk-yuen.

Leung said the shelter had been allowed to operate on the land over the years but there had been increasing complaints from villagers as the number of cows grew from about 10 to more than 100. 'The villagers complain that the cows eat their grass and flowers and scare children away. We're not talking about a few dogs, but large cattle. It's not that we are unsympathetic, but we want to know when she can move,' Leung said.

There have been plans to convert the land into a car park.

It is not the first time Au Yeung has been asked to move and her plight has been publicised over the years. There were failed attempts in 2004 to evict the cows. Au Yeung tried lobbying the government for land but an offer of a plot in Tuen Mun five or six years ago was rejected because she said the land was rocky and barren and unsuitable for grazing cattle.

'I just want the government to allocate or lease me some land so I can continue the cattle shelter and education centre. I haven't received any support from the government but I'm not giving up,' Au Yeung said.

A Lands Department spokesman said applications for the private use of government land were considered after checking the plot's status and availability and consulting the public and relevant government departments. The spokesman said Au Yeung may also explore the possibility of renting some privately owned land for her project.

Cows' Home was set up in 1997 by Au Yeung, who is a Buddhist and vegetarian. She buys animals caught by the government and then sold at auctions. She started the shelter by acquiring more than 30 cows in such a way after learning that cows from Tung Chung were being sent by the government to the Animal Management Centre to be slaughtered. Although she knew little about cattle or how to care for them at the time, she and some helpers spend about 16 hours a day feeding and walking the cows and cleaning the shelter.

It is not known exactly how many wild cows roam the New Territories but complaints from villagers about them have increased as more people settle in the area. Part of the encroaching development stems from the government's 1972 small house policy, which entitles every male villager aged 18 years or over who can prove he is descended from one of Hong Kong's original residents in 1898 to build a home of not more than three storeys.