A mass release of captive animals into the wild by religious groups is doing more harm than good and should be reconsidered, the Environment and Animal Society Taiwan (EAST) said at a press conference yesterday.
The practice of “mercy release,” or fang sheng (放生), is a common practice among Buddhists and Taoists. The animals are brought to the site of the release in cages and freed into the wild after a brief religious ritual.
Those who practice the releases believe that doing so helps build good karma and bring good luck.
EAST director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏), however, citing his organization’s own study, told a news conference that the practice actually causes more harm than good.
“So-called ‘mercy releases’ have become more like ‘commercial releases,’ as religious groups buy the animals — usually birds, fish or turtles — from pet shops,” Chen said. “To make sure that they can always satisfy demand, pet shops will often catch wild animals for sale to the groups.”
“What’s the purpose of a ‘mercy release’ if it means that someone first has to catch the wild animals before freeing them again?” Chen asked.
One bird shop owner told undercover EAST staffers in a video shown at the press conference that they would catch birds from the wild to sell.
The owner also said that some foreign bird species now flourish in the wild because of organized releases.
“Some native species are now under threat,” Chen said.
Besides damaging the ecosystem, studies show that between 0.75 percent and 5 percent of birds released cannot fly away because they are too frightened and many just die, she said.
EAST staffers also recorded a bird release event in which more than 1,800 birds were freed at once.
Around 100 birds just remained on the ground, with many appearing wounded or sick.
Bird shop employees who delivered the birds in trucks picked up the birds and “recycled” them.
In the latter part of the video, a Buddhist group was seen releasing thousands of mixed species of fish into the Liyutan Reservoir (鯉魚潭水庫) in Miaoli County earlier this year. Among the fish released were kingfishers and fish that were already dead.
Chen said releasing fish in a reservoir is prohibited because it may pollute the drinking water and added that kingfishers are known as the “fish killer” since they feed on live fish and pose a severe threat to the aquatic ecosystem.
The EAST study said Taiwan-based religious groups hold on average 750 such ‘mercy releases’ annually.
The study estimated that ‘mercy releases’ have become a lucrative business that brings in around NT$200 million (US$6 million) in profit each year, Chen said.
Among the religious groups, the Life Foundation run by Buddhist master Shih Hai-tao (釋海濤) caught the group’s attention, as the foundation alone held 89 releases in Taiwan and 35 in China, the US, Canada, Indonesia, Singapore, Nepal and India in the last year.
Earlier this year, the foundation released 500,000 baby fish — purchased from fish farms in southern Taiwan — into a fishing port in Hsinchu.
“Such a massive release of fish without prior assessment would only result in irreversible ecological disaster,” National Taiwan Ocean University aquaculture professor Gwo Jin-chywan (郭金泉) said.
He said the gene pools of even the same fish species are different because of differences in the environment and genealogy.
“When farm-raised fish mix with wild fish, it could weaken the gene pool of the wild species,” he said.
While there’s no law prohibiting the releases, EAST chairman Wu Hung (朱增宏) urged the government to sanction pet shops who illegally catch wide animals or sell foreign species for release using the existing animal protection laws.
Two people were killed and another nine injured yesterday after being stung by hornets while hiking in New Taipei City’s Rueifang District (瑞芳), with officials warning against wearing perfume or straying from trails during the autumn to avoid the potentially deadly creatures. Seven of the hikers only sustained minor injuries after being stung along the Bafenliao Hiking Trail (八分寮) and made their way down the mountain with a guide, the New Taipei City Fire Department said. Four of them — all male — sustained more serious injuries and were assisted when leaving the mountain, the department said. Two of them, a man surnamed
Recent movements by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been “highly unusual,” but the military maintains a grasp of the situation, Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) said on Friday, after the military for the first time said it was monitoring troop movements in China’s Dacheng Bay (大埕灣). The minister gave the remarks to reporters before appearing at the legislature on the first day of its new session. The Ministry of National Defense on Thursday evening released an air force surveillance photograph of a PLA Shaanxi Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, and said it was monitoring the PLA Rocket Force and ground
‘ABNORMITY’: News of the military exercises on the coast of the Chinese province facing Taiwan were made public by the Ministry of National Defense on Thursday Taiwan’s military yesterday said it has detected the Chinese military initiating a round of exercises at a bay area in coastal Fujian Province, which faces Taiwan, since early yesterday morning and it has been closely monitoring the drills. The exercises being conducted at Fujian’s Dacheng Bay featured an undisclosed number of People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) warplanes, warships and ground troops, the Ministry of National Defense said in a press statement. The ministry did not disclose what kind of military exercises are being conducted there and for how long they would be happening, but it did say that it has been closely watching
China’s Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong has asked foreign consulates in Hong Kong to submit details of their local staff, which is more proof that the “one country, two systems” model no longer exists, a Taiwanese academic said. The office sent letters dated Monday last week to consulates in the territory, giving them one month to submit the information it requires. The move followed Beijing’s attempt to obtain floor plans for all properties used by foreign missions in Hong Kong last year, which raised concerns among diplomats that the information could be used for