A high-profile animal rights activist has described comments made this week by the executive director of the Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome, Angela Leong, as “nonsense”, adding that they are damaging her reputation as a legislator. The incident comes amid a deepening crisis for the greyhound racing facility ahead of its expected closure next year.
The president of local animal rights association Anima (Macau), Albano Martins, was responding to a suggestion made by Leong that his association has an ulterior motive in wanting to adopt the facility’s greyhounds.
Leong, a long-standing lawmaker in Macau and wife to gaming tycoon Stanley Ho, this week questioned why Anima is so insistent in wanting to assume responsibility for the greyhounds once the Canidrome closes in July 2018. She implied that the group had an ulterior motive, though did not specify what that might be.
Speaking to the Times on Wednesday, Martins denied the implicit accusation, stressing that there was “no money to be made in the adoption program” and called on Leong to be “clearer about what she means.”
Anima’s role in unearthing the treatment of the greyhounds over the last few years has bound the animal rights association to the Canidrome closure controversy.
The group came to prominence in the international animal welfare community after years of protesting what it said was routine animal cruelty at the dog racing facility. Its role in organizing international demonstrations, blocking the import of new dogs and encouraging airlines to boycott their transportation, put it firmly at the heart of the anti-Canidrome coalition.
Anima is calling on the Canidrome to relinquish their ownership over the greyhounds and place them in the care of the association, while arrangements are made for the dogs’ adoption.
The Canidrome has not agreed to the proposal. It says that it does not own the animals at its facility since they belong to private investors.
But Martins contends that the Canidrome is the single largest owner of greyhounds at the facility, holding direct ownership of approximately 350 greyhounds from a total of at least 567.
Moreover, since, “the Canidrome does not allow the dogs to be removed from the compound, when the owner no longer wants the dogs, they return them to the Canidrome,” he said. This contractual obligation means that the Canidrome management is the de facto owner of all greyhounds at the facility.
As a consequence, Leong has announced a plan to establish a new animal rights association called the Macau General Association for Animal Protection, which will contact private owners concerning their greyhounds’ retirement.
But Martins said that the greyhounds should not look forward to a comfy retirement in Australia or New Zealand. He suspects that Leong’s new association will be used as a front to sell the animals to other dog racing locations where they will be subject to similar or worse conditions, such as in Vietnam, Pakistan and mainland China. He said that once the dogs are “in the system,” there is no way of knowing to whom they were sold.
His concern is justified, he said, on the back of another recent comment made by the lawmaker. First reported by Jornal Tribuna de Macau, Leong this week said that “greyhounds are born for races. As some people are born poor and some are born rich, greyhounds are animals [meant] to serve humans.”
“How can the public trust that she will find a suitable home [for the greyhounds] when she makes comments like ‘Greyhounds are animals to be used to serve humans’?” asked Martins. “How can someone who makes these comments be trusted [to set up] an association to protect animals?”
Leong’s somewhat controversial statement comes a little over a year since the Animal Protection Law was implemented in the Macau SAR. The latest figures released by the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau show a 40 percent decrease in the number of euthanized canines since its implementation, and some 75 percent of infractions constitute licensing irregularities, rather than the physical or psychological animal abuse.
Martins said that Leong’s comments will not be appreciated by a Macau public that is becoming increasingly concerned with animal welfare.
“Her view is not one shared by the public,” said the animal rights activist. “What it shows is that she thinks animals are there to be exploited. […] I think it will have a big impact on her in the future [as] a lot of people think that the statement is insane.”