Senior monk denounces merit making scam freeing caged birds

BANGKOK – A senior Thai Buddhist monk has denounced the widespread practice of buying birds, fish and other animals and then freeing them in order to “make merit”, saying the practice was actually a sin.

Visitors to Thailand’s main tourist attractions, including Buddhist temples and shrines, are often approached by vendors carrying tiny cages containing trapped birds, encouraging the visitors to pay for the birds’ freedom in order to earn merit for themselves.

The vendors also sell fish and turtles in plastic bags and encourage tourists to let them loose in streams and lakes.

Phra Pipatwaraporn, deputy abbot of Wat Phananchoeng in the central province of Ayutthaya, was quoted by the Bangkok Post Tuesday as saying the age-old practice was cruel to the animals, and a sin committed by the vendors and their customers.

He said the vendors generally catch the animals after they are freed and sell them again and again.

Phra Pipatwaraporn said stalls selling the trapped animals were removed from his temple’s compound five years ago following complaints from visitors that if they refused to buy the animals their vehicles would be damaged by the vendors.

He called on police to crack down on the vendors, and encouraged visitors to buy feed for the fish in the temple’s pond if they wanted to make merit.

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