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The best "mercy release" is not to eat meat. Chinese Buddhist leaders issue groundbreaking animated feature

June 22, 2016:

"This pains me: isn't it enough to prove I'm a living being too?"

A vegetarian diet is the best kind of mercy release.

This is the potentially far-reaching new message by the China Buddhist Association, backed up by an ingenious and moving cartoon animation released this month.

It tells the story of a very unlucky, but plucky little bird who finds himself constantly caught by hunters. Despite the best efforts of a Buddhist monk to set him free each time, he always falls into the butcher’s traps. “Isn’t it enough to prove I’m a living being too?” he begs at one point. Towards the end, and just when the bird loses heart, the monk persuades the butcher and others like him to switch to a vegetarian diet.

“Choosing a vegetarian diet is a perfect form of mercy release” is the key message of this animation which emphasises that when Buddhists are conducting any kind of mercy release, they must remember to combine compassion and wisdom, and also abide by environmental laws and laws about wild species.

Watch the short animation (with Chinese and English subtitles) here.

The Chinese Buddhist community has been promoting sensible mercy release (合理放生)for some time. In a 2014 statement, the China Buddhist Association urged all Buddhists not to engage in the illegal wildlife trade and abide by wildlife laws when conducting mercy release activities.

It also called on all Buddhists to evaluate the potential environmental impact before releasing any animals into the wild so as to avoid animal deaths and suffering.

Read the Buddhist wildlife statement (in Chinese) here.

This latest, and moving message - designed to appeal to a huge audience, especially children - comes on the back of a groundbreaking documentary and press campaign by Chinese Buddhists monks and other environmentalists urging all followers to put an end to the cruel "mercy release" industry, where wild animals are caught, kept in horrendous conditions, released for money and then often caught again.

“Currently mercy release has gone wrong. It doesn’t bring good karma, it brings sin," said the well known Buddhist monk Master Hsing Yun. "And the mercy release phenomelon is not the release of living but of deaths. The living things are alive, you cannot use the name of mercy to bring destruction to the living, even causing their deaths”.

The script of Master Hsing Yun’s interview can be found here.

Secretary General of ARC Martin Palmer discussing the wildlife issue with Master Xuecheng at the headquarters of the China Buddhist Association
The interview with Master Hsing Yun was brokered by the China Biodiversity and Green Development Foundation, one of ARC's key partners in wildlife issues in China.

“Organized mercy release is an easy conduit for illegal commercial activities,” said Master Xuecheng, President of the China Buddhist Association. “It is also harmful to the environment,” and “eliminating and banning the wildlife trade is a kind of ‘mercy release’ that will bring the largest social benefit”.

“Buddhists therefore should actively work with government departments and other animal protection organizations to protect lives themselves and influence those around them to create a safe living environment for all the species on this planet.”

Master Xuecheng’s full teaching on mercy release can be found here.

These are the strongest statements on vegetarianism and mercy release ever to come from the Chinese Buddhist community. ARC is working with China Biodiversity and Green Development Foundation to get more Daoist and Buddhist leaders to take a stand against mercy release in the future.

If more people ate vegetables not meat, the environment would benefit, as well as the millions of animals kept in harsh conditions around the world.


2018: The Daoists’ latest long-term eco plan bans rhino horn, ivory; addresses mercy release crisis

Chinese Buddhists make the strongest statement ever against wildlife mercy release.

Animation about vegetarianism as mercy release.

More about CCTV News Channel documentary broadcast May 2016

Chinese script of documentary

Details of the China Buddhist Association wildlife killing ban 2015.

China Buddhist Association website

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