Facebook Twitter 新浪微博 Instagram YouTube Tuesday, Apr. 12, 2016

Animal releasing ritual gets pushback from Chinese farmers, netizens

(Xinhua)    19:34, April 12, 2016

Releasing animals into the wild has a long history in China, dating back to the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.- 220 A.D.) The practice is thought to cultivate kindness, compassion, and benevolence, but it did not become popular until Buddhism was introduced to China. (Xinhuanet file photo)

BEIJING, April 12 -- The mountains of Beijing have been crawling with new critters in recent weeks, and locals aren't happy about the new additions to the food chain.

According to a report in the Beijing Evening News on Monday, more than 300 foxes and raccoon dogs were released in Beijing's Huairou District without authorization. The captive animals were reportedly set free by Buddhists as a way of showing benevolence and earning merit.

Releasing animals into the wild has a long history in China, dating back to the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.- 220 A.D.) The practice is thought to cultivate kindness, compassion, and benevolence, but it did not become popular until Buddhism was introduced to China.

The tradition has caused controversy in recent years after guinea pigs and venomous snakes were reportedly released into the wild, causing public panic.

Peng Yuchun, a villager in Huairou's Tanghekou Township, said the animals have attacked chickens, causing complaints among locals.

"Hundreds of foxes were released into the mountains a few days ago and killed some of my chickens," Peng told Huairou's forestry bureau.

A witness who saw the animals being released said that several people drove to the township on March 27 and "released a bunch of foxes."

The local forestry bureau told Xinhua that all the freed animals were arctic foxes, which are not a protected species in China. The foxes and raccoon dogs were all raised in captivity, according to the bureau.

Staff with the bureau said they have retrieved more than 100 foxes, many of them already dead, presumably from starvation as the animals were not equipped to survive in the wild.

Local police have launched a manhunt for those who released the animals.

A similar incident was reported last week in east China's Anhui Province, after more than 100 foxes were freed in a village in Huangshan City. Investigators found that the releasers bought more than 100 foxes from a farm in Shandong Province and freed them with the help of a local monk.

Local authorities have captured 120 foxes, with eight of them dead. The rest have yet to be retrieved.

The recent cases have fueled online debate, with netizens remaining divided on the issue. While many argue the practice conforms with Buddhist belief, others say the practice disturbs the ecological balance and harms society.

According to Chinese law, freeing wild animals must be done with authorization, and the environment must be suitable for the animals' survival.


An underground market has emerged to meet the demand of the devoted.

Kong Lingshui, a law enforcement officer with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Landscape and Forestry, told Xinhua that most of the freed animals were raised domestically. The releasers did not even know where the animals came from, according to Kong, nor did they know if the animals could adapt to their new environment.

"Freeing wild animals blindly disturbs local ecological systems," Kong said. "We once caught a group of people freeing Brazilian tortoises in Beijing. The animals eat fish fry in rivers and multiply easily, damaging the aquatic ecosystem."

The rewards for the practice are not just spiritual. According to Kong, his team found an animal-freeing organization in 2007 was demanding 500 yuan (77 U.S. dollars) in "releasing fees" and 30 yuan for transportation costs from 500 participants.

"The actual cost of the activity was only 20,000 yuan," Kong said. "Additionally, the pheasants they released barely had any feathers, meaning they could not survive in the wild," Kong added that many released animals, such as sparrows, are recaptured and sold to releasers again." Almost 30 percent of sparrows die in the process."

Chen Junfeng, an officer with the Huangshan forestry police, said that the released animals could also threaten other wild species already facing extinction.

There is currently no applicable law to address the release of captive animals, so even if police find the releasers in the Beijing case, it will be difficult to penalize them, said Kong.

Yang Zhaoxia, an ecology expert with the Beijing Forestry University, said that China must speed up legislation on the issue to encourage "harmonious coexistence between animals, the environment and human beings."

"Releasing wild animals on a large scale could cause hazardous results," she said.

Kong Lingshui said that China should enhance online supervision to punish illegal activities organized via the Internet.

Social media users agreed.

"If releasing wild animals damages the environment, then it is not benevolence," said user "Lajimaichang" on web portal 163.com. "It is killing."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Yuan Can,Bianji)

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