A cage full of munias, birds often captured solely for the animal release trade. Photo from Chang Hua Coast Conservation Action.
Last year, in media reports before Vesak Day, the President of the Buddhist Fellowship, Angie Monksfield, said there is a difference between Buddhism and kindness towards animals. "Being kind to animals is one of the core practices in Buddhism," she said. "However, freeing animals into the wild, especially those that have been bred in captivity, is not necessarily a kind act as these animals would be easy prey for predators."
Instead, she urged Buddhists to refrain from eating meat and to adopt and care for animals from shelters, help injured animals and preserve their natural habitats.
Sadly, animal release continues to take place, throughout the year, but particularly during the Vesak Day period
It is cruel to release animals into the wild. Why?
Often, animals are released into the wrong habitat, causing them to die a painful death. For example, freshwater fishes are released into the sea. Or marine fishes released into the reservoir. Freshwater frogs are sometimes released into the sea. We have also observed shallow water animals (such as clams, snails, crabs) being released in deep water. These will all almost certainly die.
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on his flickr.
The process of release can be stressful to the animals. Animals bought from shops are often stressed during transportation and religious ceremonies. Many may already be weak or dead upon release. Exhausted released animals may eventually die.
Pets or captive bred animals usually lack the natural skills to survive and may die when released into the wilderness. They may not know how to avoid predators, or find food and shelter.
Released animals that do survive may hurt existing wild animals, and upset the natural balance. They may compete with our native wildlife for shelter and food. Some released animals may eat our native wildlife, or introduce diseases to our wildlife. More about the serious impact of invasive alien species.
Buying animals destined for the table does not stop the trade. In fact, it simply supports the trade and encourage the capture or raising of more of these animals.
Ironically, the practice of animal release often CAUSES more animals to be captured. Increasingly, animal release has become such a big business that in some places, animals are harvested from the wild FOR animal release.
TRAFFIC did a five-year survey of munias (small birds) in the Medan Bird Market. Many of these birds are exported to Malaysia and Singapore. The birds are not sold as pets. The trade in these birds is fuelled solely by the practice of releasing them. Dealers reported that between 30% and 50% of these birds died in the first 24 hours between capture and sale. from Animal release: Don’t spur capture of wildlife The Star 4 Nov 09.
In Taiwan, religious groups spend more than NT$200 million (US$6.19 million) annually to engage in "release of life" rituals, which they practice 750 times on average each year involving more than 200 million creatures. Birds, fish, frogs, turtles and snakes are the most commonly used animals. Turtledoves, sparrows, scaly-breasted munia, and Japanese white-eye are the most popular birds in the "release of life" activities because they are cheap and can be easily caught in large numbers in the wild in Taiwan. From 'Release of life' religious practice spurs big business: group Central News Agency, Taiwan News 2 Oct 09.
Thus it seems hardly compassionate to release animals into our nature reserves or parks or reservoirs.
To be truly compassionate, we should STOP the practice of animal release.
Possibly, most people who participate in animal release do so innocently, not knowing they are doing more harm than good. Greater awareness will hopefully stop this cruel practice.
You CAN make a difference!
- Don't release animals.
- Persuade your friends and family not to release animals.
- Consider other ways to channel the good intentions behind this practice into truly compassionate activities that are kind to animals and our environment.
- Join the team of volunteers coming together this Vesak Day to stop animal release.
Sign up on this form http://tinyurl.com/onr2010, thanks to Siva for setting up the form.
For nature guides: If you are a nature guide who often comes across ordinary people engaging in 'animal liberation' do consider coming for the Leafmonkey workshop on 30 Apr (Fri) where Karen Teo will share about the issues. The workshop will then brainstorm ways to raise awareness and stop this practice. All are welcome to the workshop!
Is animal liberation common in Singapore?
From a quick search, animal liberation is promoted at these sites
- Amitabha Buddhist Centre which states "As at 19 May 2008, about 100 million animals were liberated. Rejoice!"
- Karma Kagyud Buddhist Centre: gallery of animal release (marine life).
- Thekchen Choling (Singapore): After prayers and wishes for these beings to obtain a better rebirth in their next life, these beings are liberated into the waters around Singapore. Typically a one-day outing to Pulau Ubin.
- Please don't release animals into our wild places: you will do more harm than good on the wildsingapore website. Which also has suggestions of alternative actions to show compassion.
- Marine animal release, 7 simple questions you should ask on the Pulau Hantu blog.
- Mercy Release on the Humane Society International website.
- The Wretched Act of Animal Release by Debby Ng in the Asia Magazine.
More blog posts on the issues
- Don't release animals during Vesak, you're sending them to their deaths from The Lazy Lizard's Tales.
- Workshop on cruel "Animal Liberation" on the midnight monkey monitor.
- Vesak Day and "Animal Liberation" on our shores.
- The frog of human kindness victim of animal release on the annotated budak blog.
- Release me not on the annotated budak blog.
- Operation No Release on the Midnight Monkey Monitor blog with alternatives to consider.
- Animal releases on Vesak Day 2004 on habitatnews.
- Animal Release Initiative 2006 (You have a choice) by Ashley Ng.
- Animal Release Initiative 2005 by Ashley Ng.
More news articles on the issues
- Animal release: Don’t spur capture of wildlife The Star 4 Nov 09;
- 'Release of life' religious practice spurs big business: group Central News Agency, Taiwan News 2 Oct 09.
- Public urged not to release animals into the wild on Vesak Day Zaki Amrullah, Channel NewsAsia 7 May 09
- Public urged not to release animals into the wild Channel NewsAsia 30 May 07
- Bird Flu Experts Urge Halt to Wild Bird Trade By Tan Ee Lyn PlanetArk 5 Mar 07
- Animals and pets set free in the wild create problems Vanessa Neranjani Muhundan Straits Times Forum Online 13 Sep 05
- Is this any way to treat a member of the family? 'Freeing' a domesticated pet in the wild condemns it to a painful death Letter to Today, 24 May 05
- Fewer cases of animals being released into nature reserves By Ching Yi / Wong Siew Ying Channel NewsAsia, 21 May 05
- Vesak Day: Free animals? Adopt a pet instead Letters to the Straits Times Forum Page, 17 May 05
- Public advised not to release animals into nature reserves, reservoirsChannel NewsAsia, 10 Apr 05
- When acts of mercy can kill by Lin Zhaowei Straits Times, 11 May 05
- Taming the pet industry by Patricia Yap firstname.lastname@example.org Today Online 4 May 05