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.
UNCREWED CRAFT: A lack of domestic components and engine outsourcing show the need for Taiwan to develop a local drone supply chain, an analyst said The development of a fully domestic drone manufacturing supply chain is crucial to Taiwan’s ability to use the uncrewed aircraft effectively during wartime, a recent report from the Institute for National Defense and Security Research said. Ukraine’s experience in resisting Russia’s invasion demonstrated that civilian drones can provide valuable intelligence during wartime, but they must be manufactured domestically to ensure that foreign component makers cannot take control of the devices, the report said. In the report, institute researcher Chen Po-hung (陳柏宏) analyzed the security of Taiwan’s drone supply chain. Ukrainians have used civilian drones to locate Russian convoys and other targets, he said,
In the last few days before the local elections on Saturday, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said it is focusing on 10 regions it considers highly contested areas, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said it is stepping up campaigns across the nation. The DPP considers Keelung, Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu City, and Maoli, Yilan, Nantou, Penghu, Changhua and Yunlin counties as areas where its candidates are facing fierce competition, a party source said. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Vice President William Lai (賴清德) and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) plan to visit those areas again this week, the source said. The night before the elections,
VOTERS’ CHOICE: The DPP’s Chen and independent candidate Huang conceded defeat before 7:20pm, with Chiang pledging to remain humble and do his best Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) yesterday won the Taipei mayoral election, with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate defeating the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) pick, former minister of health and welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), and former Taipei deputy mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊), an independent. After polling stations closed at 4pm, the Taipei Election Commission issued a preliminary estimate that voter turnout in the city was about 64 percent, slightly lower than in 2018. Chiang, 43, is to be the youngest Taipei mayor ever, with the KMT regaining the capital after eight years. Chen had an exceptionally high national approval rating when he was head
A naval landing craft on Thursday sank near Kinmen County after wet weather and rough seas flooded its cabin, the Naval Fleet Command said. The vessel, called Landing Craft Mechanized 1326, had completed transport and replenishment missions in the county and was returning to Taiwan proper when surging waves flooded the cabin, the navy said in a statement. The craft’s five crew members tried to bail out the water to no avail, the Navy said. The landing craft eventually sank off Kinmen’s Liaoluo Bay (料羅灣) at 5:18pm, although all crew members rescued, it said, adding that the precise cause of the sinking