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

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2005:

HONG KONG–Hong Kong Disneyland 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 management 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.

Asked ANIMAL PEOPLE of 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 unsustainable, 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 hunting sharks for their fins has
already jeopardized 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 burgers?” asked Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society founder Paul Watson.
Irene Chan Man-tuen tried to quell the storm by pledging to
work with a Hong Kong group called Green Power to produce 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.
“After careful consideration and a thorough review process,”
said a statement e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE, “we were not able
to identify an environmentally sustainable 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 stakeholders 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 menus.
But the 15 nation Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission on
June 29 adopted an international ban on collecting shark fin in
eastern Pacific waters.

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