Critique of "Releasing Life/Animal Liberation"

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Critique of "Releasing Life/Animal Liberation"

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:52 pm

http://sdhammika.blogspot.sg/2013/08/un ... hamma.html

A young Vietnamese woman’s husband fell ill. Desperate for a cure, she later recounted, she visited the local Buddhist temple. A monk there instructed her to “release 40 birds, one for every year of your husband’s life.” So she did, purchasing and releasing 40 birds at the temple grounds. The woman soon rejoiced; her husband made a full recovery. This is a common story in Asia, where “merit release ” of captive wild animals are performed in Buddhist rituals. But the practice raises concern amongst the conservation community for its potential to impact threatened species. Before a bird can be freed, it has to be captured—often just after having been released by someone else.

The result is the denuding of wild populations and a vast recycling of mistreated animals, most of which are likely die on one of their ersatz flights to freedom. As if that were not bad enough, the dead, disease-ridden animals are then sold in food markets. “We were staggered by the number of birds moving through this trade,” says Martin Gilbert, a veterinarian at the Wildlife Conservation Society who recently co-authored a study in Biological Conservation on merit releases. “It’s a very good rational and understandable thing to do, to let captive animals go free,” he says. “But in certain situations, it creates a trade purely for demand for animals in cages.” Gilbert and his colleagues monitored daily sales of merit release birds in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, over a period of 13 months. From their findings, they estimated nearly 700,000 animals pass through the local trade annually. They recorded a total of 57 bird species in the cages, including globally near-threatened Asian golden weavers and vulnerable yellow-breasted buntings.

“This paper highlights the potentially huge impact merit releases have on a few birds that are easily caught and are already of conservation concern,” says John Pilgrim, a conservation consultant who specializes in Southeast Asia and Melanesia and who was not involved in the study. Gilbert says he knows of only one other study, conducted in Hong Kong, which attempted to estimate merit release figures. The numbers were comparable, reporting that Hong Kong Buddhist temples released up to 580,000 birds per year.

“It’s pretty scary that this [new] paper estimates just a dozen families in two small markets sold more than 630,000 birds per year,” Pilgrim says. Conservationists do not know how the merit release market figures into Asia’s overall wildlife trade, which also exploits wild birds for pets, food, passerine fights and song contests. Globally, trade in wild birds impacts about 400 species that are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, or one third of all threatened bird species. No one know how many birds succumb each year to the wildlife trade since much of the trafficking is illegal, but within Southeast Asia alone, it is likely “in the order of tens of millions,” says Kelly Edmunds, a researcher at the University of East Anglia in England who investigates the emerging infectious diseases amongst bird sellers in Asia and was not involved in the study.

Buddhists free captive animals in order to accumulate health and longevity merits for themselves and loved ones. The exact origins of the practice are unclear, though it was mentioned in fifth-century Chinese Buddhist texts that instructed followers to “practice the act of releasing animals due to the mind of compassion.”

From Scientific America August 12 2012

For more on this subject from the Buddhist perspective see http://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=504
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Re: Critique of "Releasing Life/Animal Liberation"

Postby Adi » Mon Oct 28, 2013 7:25 pm

If one is going to do Life Release practice, it seems very wise to understand the ecosystem you are in and what will be of the best benefit for all sentient beings.
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Re: Critique of "Releasing Life/Animal Liberation"

Postby Simon E. » Mon Oct 28, 2013 7:27 pm

"Beware of idiot compassion "...Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
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Re: Critique of "Releasing Life/Animal Liberation"

Postby Simon E. » Mon Oct 28, 2013 7:47 pm

New stories come to mind. The first is the release into the wild by animal liberationists of hundreds of mink which were bred on a UK fur farm. Mink are not native to the UK. Two decades later the beautiful native British water vole ( 'Ratty ' in The Wind In The Willows ) is endangered due to predation by mink.
The second is the hundreds of lobsters being ' recycled ' by Chinese fishermen at a Buddhist pilgrimage site who release them into the bay..whereupon the fishermen catch them again and stack them up for sale.
The poor creatures spend their lives in this cruel way..fuelled as it is by idiot compassion.
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Re: Critique of "Releasing Life/Animal Liberation"

Postby Adamantine » Mon Oct 28, 2013 8:02 pm

Simon E. wrote:The second is the hundreds of lobsters being ' recycled ' by Chinese fishermen at a Buddhist pilgrimage site who release them into the bay..whereupon the fishermen catch them again and stack them up for sale.
The poor creatures spend their lives in this cruel way..fuelled as it is by idiot compassion.


Perhaps Simon, and I don't know where this is or who is doing the releasing, but in the Vajrayana context there are skillful means employed at the time of releasing the animals. . . sprinkling them with dutsi (amrita), prayers and mantras recited on their behalf, and ideally the direct connection with a presiding Lama who has a level of realization where simply making the connection with him is of benefit for this and future lives. So in that context, even if it appears as an unhappy lifestyle to be caught and released again and again- and even if it is not the plan of the Buddhists for this to happen--- if these skillful methods are indeed being employed than certainly those lobsters are better off than if they had simply been killed for food initially and never made the connection to dharma liberation techniques of sound and touch, etc.

For instance, there is the quite unusual and auspicious circumstances with the terton HH Kusum Lingpa where while releasing a number of frogs in a small pond in Queens NY, the frogs swam out a bit, turned around, faced back to Rinpoche, and put their arms in front of them in prayer position -- it certainly appeared they were bowing to him in gratitude. This happened on two separate occasions at least. Of course, unusual things were always happening around this crazy wisdom adept.
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Re: Critique of "Releasing Life/Animal Liberation"

Postby Simon E. » Mon Oct 28, 2013 8:35 pm

I'm not sure its the same kind of phenomenon Adamantine..what I was reading about seems to be a straightforward scam which tales advantage of people's good nature..I am trying to find the references..
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Re: Critique of "Releasing Life/Animal Liberation"

Postby montana » Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:56 am

The idea behind "releasing" animals is to save them from being killed.

So that means buying them from food markets or bait shops or maybe a person who skins them for fur.
I don't see why a Buddhist would go and buy animals being raised or caught for releasing. Maybe because they want to release prettier animals?
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