The practice of animal release or so-called fang sheng has become a ritual on Buddha’s Birthday in recent years.
Chinese Buddhists believe that the compassionate act of releasing captive animals will cleanse one’s sins and bring good karma.
The tradition of fang sheng dates back to at least the sixth century, when monks organized for worshipers to release fish and tortoises into temple ponds.
However, the modern day ritual of animal release has gone completely against the original idea in Buddhism.
In Buddhism, saving and liberating animals when they are at risk are considered a good deed. One should do so whenever they find any animal in jeopardy.
But the kind of massive animal release activities on Buddha’s Birthday has turned into some sort of consumption behavior and a profitable business for animal suppliers.
A large number of birds and fish and other animals are captured, sold and then released.
More than one million birds have been sold in Hong Kong each year. Most of them have been bought for release purposes.
In the mainland, Buddhism has gathered traction after the country opened up.
It is estimated that more than 200 million animals are kept captive and then released each year, including birds, snakes, tortoises and even crocodiles.
Most of these animals have been hurt and some animals became weakened or sick during transportation or sale they died soon after being released.
Animal release has also brought ecological problems since animals are often released into unsuitable locations, upsetting the balance of the natural habitat.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 4
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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