Lantau cow massacre – progress at last
It’s five months since eight feral cattle were killed in a heartless hit and run around the Upper Cheung Sha Beach section of the South Lantau Road, but there has been no news of anyone being charged or a prosecution.
Residents are still shocked and saddened at the callousness of the driver or drivers who sped away from the scene, leaving five cows and calves dead and three more so badly hurt they had to be destroyed. One small calf was only two weeks old.
Though feral, these cows are very tame and friendly, but have a tendency to sleep in a line along the roadside, with their heads pointing into the road. This was their undoing.
The reward offered by anonymous donors to catch the culprit now stands at HK$150,000. At the time the SCMP reported that a woman, 49, was arrested and released on bail after her Mitsubishi SUV was found parked close by in Tong Fuk car park, dented and containing animal hair and blood.
She was arrested and later released on bail without a charge and was required to report back to police a week later. "The vehicle was found with damage, animal hair and blood," a police investigator said, adding that he believed the cattle were lying on the road before a vehicle ran over them.
"We believe the cows were hit very hard," the SPCA’s public relations manager, Rebecca Ngan Yee-ling, said. "Some had been dragged along the road." Local animal welfare groups had criticised the police who said when they received the report that "no crime element was involved".
Police accused of not caring
"They reacted in a very uncaring manner," said Jacqui Green, spokeswoman for the Protection of Animals Lantau South, (PALS). "I told them 'no'. No matter what happened, it has to be investigated."
Ho Loy, chairwoman of the Lantau Buffalo Association, said the case was the most serious of its kind in years. She explained that an officer had earlier said there was no crime element involved as the case had initially been classified as "animal carcass found".
The Lantau district crime squad then said they were treating the case as animal cruelty, an offence with a penalty of up to three years' jail and a HK$200,000 fine. Under the Road Traffic Ordinance, drivers who fail to stop after an accident causing damage - including injuries to "any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig or goat" - could face a maximum of one year in prison and fines of up to HK$10,000.
So why the deafening silence? Today I called the police at Tung Chung, who are handling the case, to see if there is any sign of justice for the cows.
A helpful lady police inspector told me they had only just received a report back from the government laboratory. Police were not legally trained, she explained, and could not bring a prosecution without first a lab report, followed by legal advice. “It’s a complicated case,’ she explained. They would wait for their counsel’s verdict. It had already been five months months, so how long would the legal department take to decide whether to prosecute, I asked. The government lab had to deal with many serious cases, so the cows were in a queue, she explained. She insisted the police were not dragging their feet and were anxious to get the case cleared up. She expects to hear from the legal department in two weeks or so. I will be calling back for news. Ok, so “they’re only cows” as someone said after the event, and we all eat beef. But they are peaceful animals, much loved by many residents and don’t deserve to be mown down by someone who couldn’t even stop and summon help. Or say sorry.