Speech by Albano Martins in Milan: “The Macau Canidrome and its closure. The past, present and future prospects”
Here is the speech that Albano Martins, founder and president of ANIMA – Society for the Protection of Animals (Macau), GREY2K USA board member and leader of the fight to #closethecanidrome, did at the Conference ‘Freedom for Greyhounds – CloseTheCanidrome and all Race Tracks Worldwide’, organised by Pet Levrieri in Italy on the weekend of the 23rd-24th-25th September.
A speech that clearly illustrates the plight of the greyhounds at the Macau Canidrome, and the process which brought the animal protection group ANIMA Macau to fight for the track’s closure, with the crucial help of GREY2KUSA Worldwide. It also sets out the various stages of the fight and the campaign, and finally the financial, economic, community and animal welfare based reasons why the closure of the Canidrome is right and necessary and can no longer be procrastinated. The closure of the track is in fact now imminent, and will become reality within 2018. A must read!
The Macau Canidrome and its closure. The past, present and future prospects!
First, I would like to thank Stefani Traini and Massimo Greco of Pet Levrieri for the invitation extended to me to talk to this distinguished audience about the hell of the Canidrome, the only track of Macau, the only legal track in Asia, that during fifty years killed between 16 thousand and 18,000 greyhounds.
I am Portuguese of African origin living in Macau (China) for 35 years. I am an economist, former director at the Macau “central bank”, president and founder in 2003 of Anima-Society for the Protection of Animals (Macau), the only non-profit organization recognized by the Macau Government, in 2009, as playing a public utility function!
In 2003, I decided to go ahead with this association because I realized that there was no association or any law to protect animals.
I’ve been up to the end of 2011, fully involved in the rescue of abandoned animals, supporting homeless animals, as I continue today. More than 600 animals live in our shelter and we support outside probably about 3,000, under our Special Protection Program (SPP).
In the middle of that same year, 2011, after an article of SCMP of Hong Kong and later at the end of that year, after an important visit from a representative of Grey2k USA, Anima got aware of what was happening inside the Canidrome.
The hell that was the situation of stray animals in Macau did not give us time to think that animals in Canidrome were still in worst situation!
My thanks to Christine Dorchak, president of this organization, who helped us and, I would say, without which Anima could hardly get to where we are now, a process that will, I believe, end the Canidrome.
Her help was so important that I accepted, as President and CEO of Anima, to be a member of the boards of Grey2k USA Worldwide!
To Christine and Grey2k USA, our thanks.
Why it is so important to close the Canidrome?
By three orders of reason.
From the point of view of animal welfare,
First, because it was the only officially authorized track to operate in Asia and the only one until very recently!
Second, because it is the worst track in the world, with accident rates that often exceed 20 percent of the working population of around 720 animals, distributed in nine buildings, square-shaped, two floor each, each side with 10 cells for ten animals, with almost no light going to the lower floor.
Third, because no animal imported from Australia, the only supplier up to the end of 2015, went out of there alive! On average, up to 2014, of about one killed per day!
In 2015, the success of the fights against Canidrome obliged them to reduce the number of animals slaughtered (for about 262 animals instead of 360)! Today up to July only 11 were killed!
All races were done 18 times a day (15 from January 2016 and from June on only 12 races) between 19:30 and 23:45, with two rest days per week, exactly on the days of the horse racing managed by the same people!
The concession contract requires 12 races per day and 160 days per year, and Canidrome exploits the animals to the maximum, doing 18 a day and 261 days of racing days per year!
Fourth, because the roofs are in concrete Canidrome kennels are extremely hot, with no air conditioning and the temperature in Macau easily reaches values hanging around 36 degrees Celsius! Join to this the humidity that can reach over 90 percent! An authentic hell if we add one other item: it is a track with high levels of accidents!
The animals are forced to run so often that they become exhausted.
Animals that do not stay in the first three places in a race move to a lower level (levels go from 1 to 6) and when they enter the last level they are simply killed by euthanasia if do not get any of the three first positions.
They run for life!
In practice, almost nobody ever arrives the level 6 because there are slaughtered due to accidents that made them impossible to run or because they dye almost immediately in a race.
Broken necks, broken legs or so damaged that does not allow them to run anymore!
The track surface is very hard, like a wrinkled concrete without any sand. The metal protective barriers, in case of a skid, make the animal immediately unable to run again or kill him almost instantly!
The play times when they are not racing are minimal and no animal is placed for adoption!
Many animals were and are drugged.
At the time of the Portuguese administration we have laws that protected and punished with penalty, of up to three years in prison, who mistreated a racing animal (the drug was considered as such) but it is very difficult to say today whether it was really applied. However a look to the legislation shows that the lawmaker had increased for three times the penalty for such mistreatment of the animal. Something was not going well inside the compound!
On that time when there was a race, kennels have elements of the judiciary police and several inspectors of DICJ (the public regulator). Today there is only one regulator inspector closed inside a room looking to the screens of the bets.
Easily animals are drugged because there are no inspectors in the kennels and Canidrome is the largest animal owner. Those animals that do not belong to them were imported by them and sold at public auction to Chinese players, who never see them, at prices that reach up to 15 times the cost of a greyhound.
This income is not taxable as it is not a gambling income! So buying, killing and after selling is part of the business!
From the economic and financial point of view,
a study commissioned last year by the Macau Government stated that during the period of transition, before the liberalization of the gaming industry, several elements of the judiciary police and inspectors from the regulator were killed and the gaming rooms were in the hands of the underground world.
Only the casinos have been liberalized!
When President Xi Jin Ping decided to control the capital that left illegally from China or were the result of bleaching, VIP game fell steeply.
Up to May 2014, the casinos produce a gross income of about one billion patacas daily (100 million euro a day). Today that figure is around 60 million euro!
This means that the Canidrome remains an activity, such as horse racing (owned by the same people), where the underground world dominates fully.
All powered by the live broadcasting of races by MSTV television and the possibility of telephone bet.
Canidrome does not receive per day more than a dozen spectators, far from the golden days of the 80’s when was completely full!
In 2014 the Macau gaming generated 351 billion patacas of gross income!
Despite Canidrome officially reporting losses until 2007, this may be not totally truth!
In terms of an economic and financial view, if we use only the official data, a cost-benefit analysis shows that this business is indeed a loss to the government of the territory, because they are using a huge space in an area with the highest population density of the world (the Fai Chi Kei) to produce so little to the public coffers.
Macau has only 30.4 km2 area!
Casinos produce in three hours the equivalent to the Canidrome in one year! And that is what matters now!
In 2005, when the contract was revised, the Government reduced it from 20 to 10 years but gave one gift to Canidrome. It had to pay only 25 percent tax on gross income when the casinos already were paying 40 percent!
This decision generated officially profits that reach a peak in 2010 worth 104 million patacas! After that, the profits went down to reach 4.8 million patacas in 2015!
This profit is now exactly the same as the sales at public auctions of greyhounds to Chinese gamblers!
This means that with no animal sales Canidrome can not survive today!
Total gross incomes of Canidrome were 340 million patacas in 2010 and 125 million in 2015, decreasing 63 percent, and by June this year the income has dropped 30 percent!
By having preferential taxes (15 percent less than pay the casinos), Canidrome made the Macau Government to lose since 2006 to the first half of this year 298 million patacas! We used these figures in our fight!
Please note that the tax rate was 50 percent in 1985, 35 percent in 1988 and 25 percent after 2005!
A way the government found to support that industry!
Economically it is a business that does not serve the Macau Chinese Government and to believe the official data provided by the regulator, the industry itself has no more interest on it. What they claim is the land, using the heavy losses over the 50 years of activity as its flag. The real estate since the liberalization entered into a speculative bubble and values, in 2014, 16 times the values of the Q2 of 2003!
I believe that Anima has created a lot of trouble to the industry. The land will be used by government instead!
From the Community point of view,
it is clear this is a track sandwiched in the most populated area of Macau and surrounded by buildings housing around 25 floors, school complexes, with a football field in the middle, flanked by the racetrack!
The internal space and the streets around this complex, stink of urine and the barking of the animals bothers the population.
Athletes and kids from the schools arounded, are required to practice sport in the hardest hours, as after lunch time! Macau has no land and very few complexes for sports!
There are no social facilities in that area, there are no car parks and green areas. That was a key point for us to use when we begin our fight! In Macau the respect for the rights of animals is relatively small and new, the abandonment is high and no law protects minimally any animal (the law just passed on 2 September this year).
Until this day, eating a dog or a cat cost only 2 to 20 euro fine and no more!
Greyhounds are killed by euthanasia in the presence of a veterinarian of the Government, except during races when there are serious accidents. The bodies are cremated! No consumption of greyhound meat happens in Macau, but occasionally it is known that some people eat, though small cases, meat of other dogs or cats or exotic animals, but confined to a population of temporary immigrants from China.
This is the current situation of Canidrome.
The Canidrome will close by 2018, by decision of the Government that gave them two options.
Or they are capable to change the location of the track and the Government approves the new site or they must close!
As it is not possible to change their location, they will have to close doors!
What Anima has done to facilitate or lead to this decision?
Anima with the help of various international organizations, tried first, to know in detail the reality of Canidrome, creating a work team to collect all kinds of information disclosed by the track on its website, in Chinese language. This took few months studying and deciding what information should be collected and reported!
As Canidrome needed to give the information to the owners of animals and announce new animals and its specifications, and as no one was aware of the real situation of the greyhounds, or may be because they are very powerful, Canidrome website give very good details of its activity (accidents, deaths, the values of the public auctions, etc.), information that for example is not disclosed by several tracks in Europe and USA.
From June this year, such information is no longer available. They realized that we were using it in our own benefit!
With this database we started to post on the radio, through television and newspapers in all three languages that are read in Macau. And to hammer the government and the secretaries of the sector (ministers in European language) and the regulator, with dozens of letters a year, denouncing the situation and calling attention to the damage it was causing to the Macau image of modernity, in the eyes of international community! All always with plenty of information!
A very sensitive issue for a territory that lives of tourism and game and produces nothing else!
We have set up a local awareness of what was going on inside those doors.
It took us four years to do this.
Our fight became known in March 2012, after the visit of Grey2k USA in December 2011!
In a private meeting with the regulator, Canidrome was forced to sit down with us twice and begin to discuss an adoption program! Very tough meetings!
No animal was placed for adoption because it requires additional facilities that do not exist! Canidrome considers this program a loss of time and money. They were used to kill quickly, buy others for replacing them and sell the newcomers in public auctions!
At the time, our discussion was not about to close the Canidrome, although this was our desire, but we knew that this was the next step because these people only do anything if forced! This was a job for the Government!
Canidrome missed all commitments agreed with Anima so we break the negotiations shortly afterwards!
Next year, given the intensification of our campaign, Canidrome created on its official website, an adoption program to foolish people, and its chief veterinary was the first to adopt an animal. The dog stayed living in kennel T inside the Canidrome compound, and after our protests with the regulator, the dog was taken to a private clinic of that vet, to live there, in a tiny interior area, a mezzanine with no natural light, probably to be used for blood transfusion.
In total, only four animals left Canidrome in four years, the last three delivered to the Municipal Kennel to arrange adopters! The Canidrome does not want to waste time and money with retired animals!
That was enough for Anima show the community that the program was false and created only to deceive the Government and all of us!
It was the beginning of the end! We have moved to a second step, to close the Canidrome!
Today, it can be said that the entire population is on in our side, but of course, intellectuals, judges, journalists and business people who are not involved with them are very important to help changing the environment and they are almost totally with us!
When discussing the issue with Authorities or in media or even in our letters, we end our arguments with the welfare of the animals as the last reason, not as the beginning of our approach! We are in China, even if it is a different China!
Our petition launched last year to close the Canidrome, reached about 370,000 supporters!
In July last year, we were capable to held in Macau, an international conference attended by nine international organizations, to show the government we want the close of Canidrome until the end of the contract, that was December 2015!
Making the world aware of the situation of Macao greyhounds was, in our view, important because the Government is averse to this kind of advertising that can make Beijing ask questions. China doesn’t like any kind of instability! Any instability even not by political motifs must be resolved as the dispute can lead people to go to the streets! This is how China thinks!
Several other initiatives were done locally, like the vigil in support of greyhounds by the closure of Canidrome that happened in more than two dozen cities in the world, an initiative of Grey2k USA! The Government was forced to say to the community something! The contract would be extended for another year but a study was ordered to the University of Macau in order to facilitate a decision before the end of 2016!
It was a defeat for us that tastes victory because we got aware that was politically incorrect the Government to continue supporting these forces for so long time, and against the community! They were only looking for a good excuse that came one year later, after the Government has received such report!
But as apparently the Government seemed not active enough, after this international conference, our partners that were with us from the very beginning helped us to dry up the sources of greyhounds.
A video made by Animals Australia, our partner in this fight, was the detonator.
It showed how the industry in Australia trained their greyhounds with live animals as bait, how they live and were killed in Macau Canidrome and Vietnam, here by poison injected in the veins!
The scandal broke, greyhounds stopped coming to Macau at the end of 2015!
Today the NSW decided to ban all races in his state in Australia in 2017 and the situation of Macao was one of the detonators! (Speaking of Paul’s visit)
Usually Canidrome imported 30 greyhounds per month, exactly the same number slaughtered, i.e. in two years the whole population, still young, most aged two / three years old, was completely replaced! Some animals are even killed a month after beginning racing and many before four months after arrival!
In 2016, in seven months, instead of killing 240 animals, only 11 greyhounds died!
A victory! Canidrome can not kill as it needs them for the races!
Canidrome tried to change the source of greyhounds, moving from Australia to Ireland.
Anima denounced through our partners.
Anima was aware of the arrival of the first shipment of three greyhounds in March, and knowing the place of landing, filmed the arrival of two lots of three animals each, coming from Ireland in April this year!
With the support of Grey2k USA we were capable to disclose that information in UK and Ireland.
Activists in Ireland and particularly in UK, stopped the sending of another contingent of 24 animals that were intended to reach Macau. Again, the information was provided by us in the same way!
I can even say that without them, greyhounds would probably come to Macau and we could still be today trying to stop exports.
On the day of the expected arrival of those animals in Macau, Anima knowing that they will not arrive, called all press to the bridge 20 and announced the end of the supply of more animals to Canidrome and the beginning of its end.
News post by MDT assures that without new greyhounds the Government will not authorize the business, when the concession expires!
It was time to give the final blow. Anima called a press conference and provoked the CEO of Canidrome, urging him to be brave enough to accept a public debate with Anima on the public TDM television! He didn’t answer!
Several open forums were done and Canidrome never showed up.
A private television Lotus, considered as belonging to Beijing interests, invited Anima, a representative of the Responsible Gaming and of the residents near Canidrome, to a live discussion, in Chinese, followed by 30 minutes answers to community questions. All supported us! All questions and all my colleagues in the interview were Chinese and all the debate was in Chinese!
It was given the final blow in Macau. It was all now just a matter of time!
But we still needed to dry the new and potential source of animals that was Ireland.
Grey2k USA and Anima traveled to Ireland to a demonstration organized by ARAN, in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Parliament. We were received in the Parliament, thanks to the help of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports (ICABS) and the petition for not sending anymore animals to Macau (China) was delivered to the office of the Ministry of Agriculture!
A meeting between Grey2k USA, Anima and Lufhtansa in Frankfurt allowed the operator to stay abreast of the situation of greyhounds in Macau and be more cautious with its international image!
But the truth is that there are many greyhounds going today to China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam taken by the airliners!
We all must try to find a way to block this transportation!
Finally, what Anima intends to do now during this process of closure and after the closure of Canidrome?
First, we quieted the Government.
We are willing to handle all greyhounds and we will try to move them to institutions and adopters internationally. But for this we need to manage Canidrome for one or two years and assume the total cost of this management!
Then, or we are capable to do the second phase of our shelter to accommodate these animals or have no choice but to send them to a place where it is much easier their international travel for adoption.
There are import restrictions of animals coming from Macau to other countries, including Europe and Australia!
We think this location could be Portugal: the land is cheap and we believe the Portuguese Government will support facilitating the entry of so many animals!
A meeting with the Minister of Agriculture of Portugal, will be scheduled without major problems, I believe!
We intend to open a delegation of Anima in Portugal and build an International Animal Re-Homing Center, which will also work to support the Municipal Councils that have huge numbers of abandoned animals, creating jobs in a area of high unemployment!
This is our aim.
We are working on it and we intend to finalize the decision until the end of the year!
If the Macau Government does nothing, the animals will eventually be wiped out gradually over the races, and the rest still alive will be sold to China, India, Vietnam or Pakistan, where illegal tracks begin to happen!
Finally, our thanks to all the organizations who have were our partners in this long process, and now all Irish and the many British groups that are helping us a lot.
To Stefania and Massimo of Pet Levrieri our big thanks for allow us to be here.
Thank you for your patience!
Albano Martins President and CEO of Anima-Society for the Protection of Animals (Macau) © petlevrieri
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