The conversation took place several years ago. I was having lunch with a bird-watcher friend in Kowloon Park. I said I envied the birds in the park because they didn’t have to go to work and still they would get fed. But my friend asked: “Are you sure you will like it and won’t go crazy if you have to live your entire life in a cage? What will happen to you if you can’t leave your home?”
Since then, I have developed unspoken respect for those who speak up for the welfare of animals, be they wild birds or butterflies, abandoned cats and dogs, or endangered Chinese white dolphins, captive dolphins and whales. It was this respect that brought Urban Diary to meet Eunice.
Eunice Chu Yat-sum is a writer and one of the founders of Friends of Mui Wo Cattle. The group was formed in the summer of 2012 after its members learned that the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department wanted to move eight stray cattle in Mui Wo to somewhere else. This band of volunteers has been instrumental in raising public awareness of the welfare of cattle, whether they are cows in Mui Wo or Sai Kung.
“Cattle should be living in the fields, working with farmers. Urbanisation has pushed many famers off the fields and this is how stray cows started to appear.
“The animals are on the roads because urbanisation has changed their natural habitat, so it’s actually a wrong concept to call them ‘stray cow’. The cows have always been around and we should leave room for them to live well,” said Eunice.
As we got to know Eunice better, we can see that she really practises the idea of sustainability in her day-to-day life. She lives a simple life and builds communities, whether it’s the ‘physical’ community where she lives, or the virtual community where she meets like-minded people who discuss environmentally-friendly actions that they can take back in the real world. She recycles, shares and helps others.
One of the dozen duties that keeps Eunice busy is her involvement with a local organic soap manufacturer as a board director. The company is a social enterprise and it is the brainchild of Eunice’s friend Bella. Well, I must declare my interest here: I’ve been using Bella’s soap, shampoo and hand wash products for some time.
I used to think that Bella started her company because of a particular urge to create an environmentally-friendly product. However, it was only after hearing her full story that I realised her business was actually a solution that simultaneously allows her to spend as much time as she can with her daughter and to make a living that is beneficial to nature. Bella draws a lot of inspiration from the multi-tasking mothers of decades past.
“I like how children used to grow up with their mothers around them. For instance, mothers would take home simple jobs like assembling plastic flowers so they could earn some money while taking care of the family. That’s why I started my soap-making business because it lets me work and take care of my children at the same time. If my business fails, the worst that could happen is I’ll have to somehow use up all the soap-making ingredients that I bought for the rest of my life.”
We will hear the stories of these two inspiring individuals through the eyes of my colleague Billy in this edition of Urban Diary.