Author Topic: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’  (Read 8656 times)

Namdrol

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MISPLACED MERCY?The Buddhist practice of mass releases of captive animals into the wild has come under fire, with some calling it well-intentioned, but misguided

Buddhist Master Hai Tao is seen in Yilan County on Friday. Hai said he was not involved in a recent incident in which followers of his released more than 100kg of snakes in the county.
Photo: Hu Chien-sen, Taipei Times

The issue of whether to release captive animals resurfaced after several people in Yilan County, which contains the nation’s largest botanical garden, recently encountered cobras, which do not generally inhabit cooler mountainous regions.

An explanation for the unusual phenomenon has now emerged: Self-proclaimed followers of Buddhist master Hai Tao (??) released more than 100kg of the snakes in the county’s Shuanglianpi (???) area.

They even posted about the release on the Web, saying that they “have become addicted to the practice” and drawing criticism from environmental protection groups, as well as from concerned netizens.

“Releasing captive animals is good practice, but releasing snakes into the wild hurts society and contravenes the intention of mercy,” Master Hai Tao said.

He said his group makes legal applications whenever it stages such releases.

He said the cobra release was the act of an individual acting in his name, and he told his followers that it is alright to save snakes, but not to release them into the wild.

The follower had posted an article on a Buddhist Web site in the middle of last month saying that if NT$36,000 (US$1,200) could be solicited, a wholesaler would be willing to sell 100kg of snakes “at a cheap price.”

On June 1, a blog chronicled the process, saying that six people bought 117 kg of snakes and drove deep into the mountains of Yilan County that night to release them.

One follower even described the process as follows: “When I heard the excited and frightened screams of one female follower, I smiled.”

“You need to release the animals yourselves to feel the infectious sensation. The sensation will be ingrained in your head and get you hooked,” he wrote.

Lai Chien-cheng (???), a former head of the Yilan chapter of the Society of Wilderness, said he saw a listless snake on the road at Shuanglianpi, which he speculated could be one of the ones that were released recently.

“This was not giving the snake life, but death,” he said.

He said that a lot of such Buddhist groups release turtles and fish at night at Shuanglianpi, numbering in the thousands each time, which he said has caused an ecological disaster.

The government should regulate the practice, he added.

Lin Kuo-chang (???), a section chief of the Forestry Bureau, said the bureau had asked police to investigate.

Lin also said that the bureau was working on revising the Wildlife Conservation Act (???????) to regulate commercial and massive “release” activities.

However, because the proposed amendment will affect religious culture, with fines of up to NT$2.5 million (US$83,670) and criminal prosecution, religious groups oppose the move.

Lin said that religious groups believe the practice is redemptive, but said the bureau was hoping reason with them.

“We hope to explain to the religious groups that the practice, while done with good intentions, actually has negative effects,” Lin said.

The bureau plans to base its rules on those regulating hunting by Aborigines and would require those planning to release captive animals to register the species, the areas and numbers of animals to be released.

“They will be barred from releasing them if they have no prior permission,” Lin said.

At a forum on regulating captive animals earlier this week, religious figures said the practice was an important part of Buddhism and that if the law prohibits it, believers will simply release them secretly.

The religious figures said that balance should be sought between ecological conservation and cultural needs.

Master Hai Tao said at the forum that the government should punish those who hurt animals.

“The government should curb killing, and not those who release animals,” Master Hai Tao said.

Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan executive director Chu Tseng-hung (???) said religious groups often buy animals bred by dealers for the sole purpose of selling them to be released, which “contravenes the original intention of protecting the animals.”

He called for the Council of Agriculture to revise the law and complete an environmental impact assessment of the practice.

He said that religious groups believe the practice helps reduce the “negative karma” of an individual, and even say that if one of the venomous snakes bites someone, it is the result of that person’s karma.

vajratruth

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2012, 04:58:28 PM »
Yes, I do feel that this is misplaced mercy. No doubt the Buddha thought Compassion and therefore the act of rescuing and releasing animals are meritorious acts.

However, Compassion is not the only thing the Buddha taught. The Victorious One also taught Wisdom and in this instance, Compassion was exercised without the application of Wisdom.

The mass release of animals without thinking may have detrimental results such as (i) damaging the ecological balance as the snakes need to feed on something (ii) potentially harming lives especially if the animals being released are poisonous snakes and (iii) damaging the animals themselves if they are unable to acclimatize in the place where they are being released.

It is never a good idea to make a huge hue and cry about mass release of animals (apart from the fact that we are not supposed to brag about it) as it could very well encourage the rise of a counter industry i.e. the business of catching animals to be sold for release.

This is a good example of how a good intention without thought can turn out to be harmful instead of generating merits.

Getting "hooked" seems to be feeding on an attachment more than anything else.

Big Uncle

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2012, 06:04:30 PM »
Sorry, i don't think it is a misguided practice. I think it was a stupid and selfish act. Don't you think that by releasing so many snakes, it will be harmful to many. What if releasing the snakes kills off a whole ecosystem of other animals or worse still, they start attacking people. Who is going to take responsibility of that?

Cobras' venom is extremely lethal and it is very dangerous situation to have so many of them roaming around in the forest that sounds so close to humans. I believe that there are safer animals like birds, fishes and so forth. Snakes is far more dangerous and it is foolish to just release them and wipe our hands clean of responsibility.

Benny

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2012, 06:10:18 PM »
I could not agree more with Vajratruth , that this is a classic example of exercising compassion without wisdom. This meritorious acts are happening everywhere, even in USA, whereby they are suffering an ecological disaster of an epic scale from the "Asian Giant Snakehead and Chinese Bighead Carps Invasion".

These two freshwater species was initially imported into USA for the consumption of the Chinese population as medicinal fish soup. And at the same time a large number of them were bought and released for religious beliefs.
The Asian Giant Snakehead is a top carnivorous predator and the result was the mass extinction of the indigenous local fish species. This killer fish has invaded almost 70% of its waterways causing the local fish industries to close down.

The other species causing ecological disaster there are the Bighead Carps, which although being a vegetarian has caused mass extinction of local species. They are such a voracious algae filter feeders that they leave the system barren of any food for other fishes causing their mass extinction! In some areas these invasive species are in such abundance that they actually leap into your moving boat.

What we need now is EDUCATION on ecological and environmental conservation to dispel the ignorance of these compassionate people, as opposed to PROHIBITION ! What should be made known and understood is the importance of knowledge of the local ecology through study and the importance to maintain its fragile balance. The ACT of animal release should be encouraged when it is done wisely. For example : the release of local depleted fish species instead of invasive "alien" species that can wreak havoc in that environment.

Manjushri

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2012, 05:56:28 AM »
I definitely agree with some of the key points stated in the article. Simply releasing a large number of animals into the wild without any follow up will not be good for the animals too. People should be more caring towards the animals, in that they should think whether the animals would survive in the wild or the ecosystem they are releasing the animals in otherwise the fate of the animals would be the same as if you did not release them at all.

I have heard complains of destroying the ecosystem through liberation of animals, despite it being a noble deed. You may not know whether the animals introduced will overhaul the balanced ecosystem already developed, and in the end, all the beings in there die. One should exert common sense and not simply release animals into the wild or wherever they deem fit and convenient to them.

It should NOT be an attachment, to liberate animals because people will start doing it for their own benefit and have no interest in the welfare of the animals. More animals will be caught for people to "purchase and liberate", and it would then be a never-ending cycle. 

Liberate, but liberate smartly!

yontenjamyang

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2012, 10:09:47 AM »
Animal releases has the motivation of liberating the animal from captive state or from being slaughtered. The effect is that the animal suffer less. The good karma generated by the people releasing the animals are said to be tremendous. The effects are life long, recovery from illness and even contributing to prevention from being reborn in the lowers realms (although not guarantee).  I know this is a very popular practice in Asia amount buddhist and taoist.

However, many animal releases has been done without much thought about the effects on the animal itself, the environment/ecology and effects on others animals and humans. Whether the act generate merits or good karma depends on the motivation and most importantly on the actual results itself. To have just good motivation without wisdom may actually cost negative results as in this case or releasing cobras. I just wish anyone doing animal releases to consider realistically what are the actual expected results and measure it also the actual effect after the animal releases are done. For example, in the case of releasing fish into a lake of pond, we should research into have many fishes that particular lake can support, how many fishes are already in that ecology, so as to avoid rescuing the fishes from the "devil" and throwing them into the "deep blue sea".

Positive Change

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2012, 03:25:38 PM »
Sorry, i don't think it is a misguided practice. I think it was a stupid and selfish act. Don't you think that by releasing so many snakes, it will be harmful to many. What if releasing the snakes kills off a whole ecosystem of other animals or worse still, they start attacking people. Who is going to take responsibility of that?

Cobras' venom is extremely lethal and it is very dangerous situation to have so many of them roaming around in the forest that sounds so close to humans. I believe that there are safer animals like birds, fishes and so forth. Snakes is far more dangerous and it is foolish to just release them and wipe our hands clean of responsibility.

I agree... in fact it is almost malicious! The motivation is completely warped or wrong even. The very account of one of the people releasing the snakes getting so excitable is indication enough. There was NO thought, NO concern and NO care whatsoever for what would happen to the snakes, the other indigenous animals in the area as well as other humans.

Such blind practices or "help" should be curbed or eradicated immediately as each release is causing an irreparable consequence to the ecological wildlife of the specific areas.

Releasing fishes or turtles without first making sure that the exiting fishes in ponds or lakes can take the sudden over population or worse still, having an entirely different aggressive species introduced that may end up killing everything else in the pond because of the sheer numbers!

That would be complete counter productive to the act of saving but in fact will contribute to the act of killing of many sentient beings. Ignorance in the guise of selfishness is merely pretense! I hope and pray this senseless killing in the name of freedom and worse still a Buddhist act of compassion be STOPPED!

kurava

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2012, 12:12:02 PM »
We are living in an imperfect world, until the day we become enlightened everything we do will have negative consequences . Therefore Buddhists focus on the practice of wisdom & compassion.

Without wisdom, we might end up practicing compassion foolishly. Our intention may be virtuous but the result of our action is not what we intended to achieve.Therefore in our imperfect world, our action will be based on the wisdom of "choosing the lesser of two evils" - the act that will cause the least harm to ourselves, others and the environments.

It's quite baffling that this group of people chose to release deadly cobras. I can't help but wonder about their real motivation behind the supposedly compassionate act since releasing these poisonous snakes will definitely lead to the deaths of many smaller animals and may even cause harm to human.



pgdharma

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2012, 02:10:37 PM »
Releasing animals without much thought about the effects on the animals, environment or eco system is a foolish act.  To have just good motivation without wisdom may create negative results. As in the case of releasing these poisonous snakes into the forest, it will upset the eco systems as smaller animals will be killed and not to mention human beings may be bitten by the snakes. Yes it is definitely good to liberate animals but why chose snakes instead of birds, fishes or tortoises. Besides, in order to save lives, it is better to be a vegetarian. In this way, more lives can be saved. It is no point to kill animals for our consumption and on the other hand release animals.

hope rainbow

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2012, 02:44:16 PM »
Compassion is better paired with wisdom.
There are reasons for that, obviously at many levels.

To free cobra snakes and create problems is not bringing good karma. How could it? I don't see it...

Good intentions without wisdom can create conflicts, problems and more suffering.
One of my teachers once told me the story of some europeans who installed wells and running water in an African village in the early 20th century so that the women and childrne did not have to wlak back and forth everyday to the spring to carry water back.
Good intention was there, and action ensued.
Result: the social fabric of the village fell apart and many problems ensued, because the ritual of "getting fresh water" was essential to the functioning of the village.

Does it mean that the running water should not have been installed?
No, of course not, it means that we shoudl always question if we have enough wisdom to do this or that and address the situations with wisdom and not just do things out of a good heart, or to gain "good karma" without thinking long turn about the consequences of our actions and addressing them.

Positive Change

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2012, 03:35:59 PM »
Compassion is better paired with wisdom.
There are reasons for that, obviously at many levels.

To free cobra snakes and create problems is not bringing good karma. How could it? I don't see it...

Good intentions without wisdom can create conflicts, problems and more suffering.
One of my teachers once told me the story of some europeans who installed wells and running water in an African village in the early 20th century so that the women and childrne did not have to wlak back and forth everyday to the spring to carry water back.
Good intention was there, and action ensued.
Result: the social fabric of the village fell apart and many problems ensued, because the ritual of "getting fresh water" was essential to the functioning of the village.

Does it mean that the running water should not have been installed?
No, of course not, it means that we shoudl always question if we have enough wisdom to do this or that and address the situations with wisdom and not just do things out of a good heart, or to gain "good karma" without thinking long turn about the consequences of our actions and addressing them.

Compassion paired with Wisdom! I like this Hope Rainbow as it makes complete sense. We cannot go around thinking we are doing good purely because the action is good. Sometimes, in the case of the village example you gave above, we apply our own perceptions of how things should be or is better without first understanding why a situation we are supposedly making better, should even be changed in the first place. That very thought based on a motivation of wanting to ensure it is the right thing to do for the person we are doing it for is, I feel, compassion WITH wisdom!

Very often we do get caught up with wanting to help someone based on our own perception or ideals with disregard to the other person's situation however dire it may seem to us. Sometimes it takes real compassion to leave the situation as it is because it is the best thing for that person. Sometimes help can be detrimental to someone's growth and ability to stand up for oneself.

We need to be able to analyse with an open mind what is best for the the other person and not we think is best for us. Sometimes, there can even be middle grounds whereby there is a combination of two solutions... that is where wisdom kicks in and takes over from blind compassion!

ratanasutra

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2012, 02:37:56 AM »
Oh mine.. This is a first time i heard about people do animal releasing by released more than 100kgs of cobra to wild, i was wondering what they were thinking when they did this actions. To create attention, to get fame and name ? As obviously it bring harmful to animals in the wild, human who stay near by and destroy the ecosystem.

Compassion without wisdom do not bring benefit to anyone instead create harmful to whoever encounter, i think this is a classic example which we can see how people mind are degenerate by doing this and claim its an act of compassion in Buddhism.     

bambi

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2012, 03:14:14 AM »
Hhmm... Releasing animals are meant to be good to generate merits, saving the lives meant to be slaughtered, practicing compassion, extending lives, etc but releasing 100 cobras into the wild doesn't seem to be logical to me  ???

Do we even think of the safety of people around the area? Yes, although it was released into the wild but is it wise? I mean, there are so many type of animals that can be liberated. Is it even safe for the whole ecosystem as mentioned by Ratanasutra? There are so many questions even from a Buddhist, what more the non Buddhists? There are cases whereby Buddhist are criticized by environmentalists about the animal liberation that Buddhist are practicing. And I like what Hope Rainbow said,
Compassion is better paired with wisdom. For those of you out there who love animal liberation, please find alternatives to release animal and be responsible and mindful of the area around you...  ;D

Some of the ways I found on the internet that I find safe :

Fish from Chinese restaurants and fish markets
If you go in to almost any Chinese restaurant or fish market you will see tens of big fish swimming in the tank ready to be killed and served on a dish. These are perfect animals to free. Some times there will be crabs, lobster and eels – all suitable for this practice.

Crickets from pet stores
Many pet stores now sell crickets that are bred to be fed to lizards and snakes. Often you can get 100 crickets for $5! That is a lot of positive karma.

Chickens from battery farms and suppliers
Although the chickens from battery farms are not killed for food, they do live horrible lives in tiny cages. I am certain that there is a lot of good done every time one of these birds is taken from its cell to a nice big backyard pen.

“No thing is as dear to someone as his or her own life, so no greater crime is there than taking life away. And no conditioned virtue brings greater merit than the act of saving beings and ransoming their lives.” – Chatral Rinpoche.

Jessie Fong

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Re: FEATURE: Cobra encounters spark debate over animal ‘releases’
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2012, 07:23:27 AM »
While we tell ourselves that animal (life) liberation is meant to generate merits, we must not act it out in a foolish way.  In this case of releasing a huge amount of snakes in the county, did they for a moment look into the impact their action would cause?

a. would the residents and other life-stocks be safe - the article did not say what types of snakes were released, just that some people encountered cobras that were not indigenous of that area; so we assume that those were cobras that were released (or a mixture of different species of snakes)

b. would the snakes themselves be able to acclimatize to their new surrounding - the article did say that the cobras do not inhibit such cool regions - would their lives be endangered still even though they had been saved from the wholesaler and released into the mountains

c. would that not create an artificial demand for snakes such that the wholesaler may engage in capturing more snakes - if so, what happens then if no one comes to buy these to be released; would not more snakes be subjected to the cruelty of being caged-in : demand and supply

To quote YontenJamyang : I just wish anyone doing animal releases to consider realistically what are the actual expected results and measure it also the actual effect after the animal releases are done. For example, in the case of releasing fish into a lake of pond, we should research into have many fishes that particular lake can support, how many fishes are already in that ecology, so as to avoid rescuing the fishes from the "devil" and throwing them into the "deep blue sea".