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Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group Policy Position on the Release of Captive Wildlife for Religious Purposes

July 27, 2012.  Last month, the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) approved on behalf of the Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group’s Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative (RCRC) a formal policy statement on the religious practice of releasing captive animals into the wild. For example, a practice by Buddhists and Daoists known as fang sheng—the Chinese term for the act of releasing captive wildlife as an act of compassion—raises concern for biodiversity because these releases can have significant adverse effects on biodiversity.  These animal releases can cause spread of invasive species, result in genetic swamping of native populations, and result in extreme animal suffering due to their captivity where they are denied adequate food and water and overall during activities of commercial exploitation. Further, high mortality is associated with animal release into a non-native environment.   Poorly thought-out animal releases can also have significant human health concerns, as these animals can be vectors of disease for people. The SCB Working Group and its RCRC also recognized the opportunity these releases might present for augmenting or restoring depleted native populations if the releases are coordinated with the appropriate experts and authorities. The RCRC presented a list of recommendations including a targeted awareness campaign that emphasizes the problems and opportunities associated with ‘animal release’ and the most pragmatic alternative practices that maintain both spiritual and ecological integrity.

Read the full Position Statement HERE.

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