What Mercy ? (I)




In July of 2007 I was given permission by the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) to form an exploratory committee to look into the relationships between conservation and religion.  A handful of society members rapidly grew to several hundred and we were granted Working Group status by the SCB (http://www.conbio.org/groups/working-groups/religion-and-conservation-biology). Over the years the Working Group has involved itself in a number of tasks. Most recently those tasks have focused on a religious practice called mercy release and on the use of elephant ivory for religious objects.  I have served on the Advisory Committee for both efforts.

Fang sheng is a practice by Buddhists and Daoists for releasing captive wildlife as an act of compassion. According to SCB’s Religion and conservation Research collaborative, this type of animal release causes “…adverse effects on biodiversity including the spread of invasive species, genetic swamping, extreme animal suffering, competition, vulnerability to predation, disease, and human health concerns.”  The problem isn’t even very complex.  Animals are trapped with the usual high mortality, they are kept captive with the usual high mortality, they are inappropriately released (with the usual high mortality) with expectable impacts on existing wild populations.  All of this takes place in the name of mercy and some form of spiritual redemption.   Again, it doesn’t take great intellect to figure out that there is nothing good going on here…and not much mercy.  As usual, the animal traffickers involved in Fang shen are the only ones making  good on the deal.

For additional information on Fang sheng and SCB efforts to reduce the practice see http://www.conbio.org/science-policy/policy/religion-and-conservation-biology-working-group-policy-position-on-the-rele.

(Image courtesy of Buddhist Channel through Google Images.)

Continued in the next posting.

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