Lifestyle & Belief

Taiwan Buddhists accidentally killing millions of animals during "mercy releases"


A woman joins a group of Buddhists to release unsold shellfish from Hong Kong's local markets into Victoria Harbour on Dec. 4, 2010. It is believed that "mercy releases" like these create good karma, bringing a person good fortune in this life and better prospects for the next.



Taiwanese Buddhists trying to improve their karma are being accused of killing tens of millions of animals during so-called "mercy releases".

AFP reports that the problem is so widespread that Taiwan's government is now planning to ban the practice.

An official from the government's Council of Agriculture, Lin Kuo-chang, reportedly told the news agency that some groups had accepted the ban, but negotiations are ongoing. 

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About 200 million animals are released each year, with most dying from a lack of food or natural habitat.  The Humane Society International says that the animals can "sustain injuries from nets or snares, suffocate or starve in transit, or become easy prey on release".  It adds that once released "they can spread disease, compete for food and territory, or threaten gene pools by mating with native species."

The issue has been highlighted by the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan, which has raised the issue in the past, according to Asiamag.

The Commissioner of Miaoli County in western Taiwan Liu Cheng-hung has been accused of "setting a bad example" by "taking the lead in the destruction of a river habitat", says the Taipei Times.

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Lui oversaw the release of up to 14,000 bighead carp and grass carp spawn into a local creek as part of efforts to maintain river ecosystems and diversify the fishery business.

However academics and environmental protection groups have complained that the fish are not indigenous to the area, arguing that "people should not release foreign fish into rivers" because it could affect the well-being of other fish.