Dog round-up & shark fin controversies bite Hong Kong Disneyland

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1995:

HONG KONG––Hong Kong Dis-
neyland had barely found a face-saving way to
retreat from serving sharks’ fins at weddings
when Hong Kong Dog Rescue founder Sally
Anderson complained to South China Morning
Post reporter Simon Perry that Disney man-
agement had lethally purged several dozen
dogs she was trying to capture at the theme
park and offer for adoption.
“Dozens of stray dogs adopted by
construction workers on the Disney site have
been rounded up and killed in the run-up to the
park’s opening in September,” Parry wrote on
July 25, 2005. “Forty-five dogs, some
believed to have been used as unofficial guard
dogs on the site during construction, have been
caught by government dog catchers at
Disney’s request.

“Disney last night denied the strays
had ever been officially used as guard dogs
and said it had called in dog catchers because
the animals were roaming in packs and posing
a threat to staff.”
Reuters sent the story worldwide.
Disney, “Why didn’t Walt Disney Inc. contact
the Hong Kong SPCA, which is no-kill, and
is the largest humane society between San
Francisco and Chennai?”
A Disney spokesperson with animal
welfare background pledged to find out.
A different spokesperson told Parry
that the Hong Kong SPCA had been contacted,
but said it could not rehome so many dogs.
Responded Hong Kong SPCA
deputy director of animal welfare Fiona
Woodhouse, “We couldn’t have taken 50
adult mongrels and guaranteed to find them
homes. What we could have done is advertise
them and try to find them homes.”
Woodhouse told Parry that she had
no record of any contact from Disney, “but
did not rule out that the company had phoned
for advice,” Parry wrote.
The shark fin blunder came to light
when Parry disclosed on May 23 that the Hong
Kong Disneyland Hotel would serve shark fin
soup because, said spokesperson Irene Chan
Man-tuen, “the dish is considered an integral
part of Chinese banquets.”
Responded Martin Baker of
Greenpeace Hong Kong, “How can the same
company that produced Finding Nemo, with
its message that marine life is under threat, at
the same time support a trade that is unsustain-
able, wasteful, and cruel?”
Brian Darvell of the Hong Kong
Marine Conservation Society and Eric Bohm
of the World Wildlife Fund’s Hong Kong
office seized the chance to point out that hunt-
ing sharks for their fins has already jeopar-
dized the survival of many shark species.
World Conservation Union data
indicates that the global shark population is
down by half since 1986. The WCU believes
that Hong Kong accounts for about half of all
shark fin consumption, and that about 85% of
the fin traffic passes through Hong Kong.
“”They say it’s cultural. Does that
mean Disneyland in Japan is now
going to be having whale burg-
ers?” asked Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society founder
Paul Watson.
Irene Chan Man-tuen
tried to quell the storm by pledg-
ing to work with a Hong Kong
group called Green Power to pro-
duce leaflets educating visitors
against eating shark fins–– but
the leaflets would be designed to
avoid offending diners.
Irene Chan Man-tuen also promised,
Parry wrote, that Disney would only buy fins
from “reliable and responsible suppliers” who
“guarantee not to hunt endangered species or
engage in ‘finning,’ where fins are cut off and
sharks left to die.”
“In some senses this issue is similar
to the bear bile issue, in the respect that the
supply is fueling the demand,” Animals Asia
Foundation CEO Jill Robinson observed.
“Shark fin was traditionally only available to a
wealthy minority, but is now readily available
and much cheaper, with dire consequences for
the ocean’s eco-system.
“We have a real opportunity to
change attitudes here in Asia and reinforce our
message that tradition is never an excuse for
cruelty and exploitation,” Robinson assessed.
“Sharks may not have people’s affection in the
same way as bears or dogs and cats, but they
need our help.”
On June 17 the conflict received half
a page in The New York Times.
Disney retreated on June 24.
A f t e r careful consideration and a
thorough review process,” said a statement e-
mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE, “we were not
able to identify an environmentally sustain-
able fishing source, leaving us no alternative
except to remove shark’s fin soup from our
wedding banquet menu.”
Instead, Irene Chan Man-tuen said,
the Hong Kong Disneyland hotel would serve
lobster soup, a sea whelk dish, a bouillon
made from bamboo fungus, and crab roe.
“We are confident the change will
not affect the attractiveness of our weddings,”
Chan told Associated Press.
The anti-shark fin campaigners
hoped the Disney example would influence
other banquet venues.
“We are definitely keeping shark’s
fin soup on the menu,” InterContinental Hotel
food and beverage manager Harrison Lun Yu-
man told Parry.
“We would have to explain to stake-
holders why our revenue would be $100,000
less for the month,” J.W. Marriott Hong Kong
spokesperson Therese Necio-Ortega said.
The Hong Kong government refused
to take shark fin soup off of state banquet
But the 15 nation Inter-American
Tropical Tuna Commission on June 29 adopt-
ed an international ban on collecting shark fin
in eastern Pacific waters.
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