The flipside of the Buddhist ‘fly, be free’ ritual

By Dang Ngoc Khoa, Thanh Nien News, March 18, 2009

Da Nang, Vietnam -- It is ironic that thousands of birds died after they were set free at a recent festival honoring Bodhisattva in Da Nang City.

At the festival, there were dozens of people selling birds and fish to festival goers, who buy the animals to perform a Buddhist ritual.

The parents want their children to understand that setting the birds and fish free is an act of kindness.

But what most people don’t realize is that most of the birds have had their wings clipped, so they can’t fly far from where they are released, making it easy to recapture them.

Unfortunately most don’t get found and die from hunger or predators.

The fish are also trapped again for resale.

Hoang Quang Hai, director of Bao An Security Company, said the company and local authorities worked hard trying to prevent the chaos caused by the vendors.

“Many of the festival goers this year came for the first time so we’ve seen some very bad scenes of people crowding to buy birds and fish,” he said.

So the festival goers were unwittingly causing suffering - going against the very precept that they thought they were practicing – an act of kindness.