Release or no release? That is the Buddhist question.

By Chong Kwek Yan

goldfish jumping out of the water

NParks, as they do every year, released a statement in the media reminding the public not to “release animals into the wild”.

Last year, I wrote a letter to Today about this. I am also part of a working group of the Society for Conservation Biology that’s currently drafting a position statement on animal release practice and conservation.

This year, some musings:

First, “the wild” means just terrestrial environments? Or does it include the marine wild this time? As far as I know, it is only illegal to release animals into the nature reserves. I think. Singapore has no marine reserves as of yet. Most animal release still being advocated by some Buddhist organisations in Singapore are using marine animals such as fish and crabs.

Second, to “complement the efforts of” Operation No Release, “NParks is partnering volunteers and students from CHIJ Our Lady Queen of Peace to conduct an outreach ambassador session at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve…” I see some awkwardness here. Students from a Christian school will partner a government agency to conduct public education against what is commonly seen as a Buddhist practice.

It doesn’t sound quite right, if you know what I mean.

Also, it’s a shame that only the more progressive Buddhist organisations are daring enough to stick their necks out on this, but barely any take any real action. Vesak Day, too busy lah. But this is the usual malaise in the Buddhist community in Singapore. When instead you have the chance to recreate your image to capitalize on your strengths, such as Buddhist environmental ethics, you let stuff like these continue to erode the standing of Buddhism in the eyes of those uninformed.

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