"mercy release" or bad karma? It has long been a custom among some Buddhists to liberate animals whose destiny would otherwise involve a lifetime of captivity …. This is known as “mercy release”.
Buddhists believe that to achieve a better situation in the next life or to improve the quality of this lifetime, you must perform good acts. Setting animals free is considered an act of compassion that will be rewarded with good karma. But this can have terrible consequences, as it also a practice that threatens native species and can lead the animals released to a horrible death.
I often find non-native animals in the forests and jungles, like imported eels, frogs, toads and turtles, often slowly dying in a new unsuitable environment, or outcompeting local species and damaging the ecology. Or even like goldfish, sometimes released in the sea where they die in the salt water. Or like the bird I found dead on my balcony..... It is a Chinese Bubul, but it has been dyed a red colour (often considered a lucky colour for release), but the toxins have eaten away the bird's throat, and it died a slow painful death. This colouring can also attract predators….
Large Buddhist temples may purchase hundreds or thousands of animals to be “freed” in a single day. Mercy release is practiced in many places around the world, including Hong Kong, and has created a thriving industry for those who trap, trade, and sell animals for release - criminal gangs more often than not. Birds, fish, and turtles are the most commonly used animals, but a wide variety of species— native and imported—are victims of this misguided ritual. Animals trapped for mercy release can sustain fatal injuries from the nets or snares. Others suffocate or starve during transport, when they’re kept in tightly packed crates for days or weeks. Animals who survive to be released often collapse from exhaustion, illness, or injury or become easy prey for predators.
I know that Kadoorie farm and the AFCD campaigns against this, but as I was told “It's an industry business, and fangsheng money is too important for a lot of people to care for such "minor" things as environment and animal welfare”. Current regulations stipulate that any bird imported into HK must have proper documentation, but this is not enforced by AFCD. This enforcement would instantly kill the trade because no-one selling a bird for a few dollars would pay for the registration. So as with many of HK's environmental issues lack of enforcement overturns the hard work and good intentions in our legislation. It's also worth nothing that this trade is a known conduit for H5N1 into Hong Kong. If you want to do good acts then be mindful of your actions, as this ignorance and stupidity leads to far more harm than good....and bad acts will lead to bad karma, right? Please don’t participate in this ritual. Instead, create good karma through acts that truly help animals, such as supporting a legitimate wildlife sanctuary, or donating to programs that aid wild dogs, or adopting a more humane diet.