Buddha's Birthday has just passed in Hong Kong, and part of tradition is that people would release animals back into the wild as atonement for sins, or just trying to a good deed to attract good luck in the coming future. However, many people are doing evil with pretentiously good intentions, as they usually end up killing the animals they supposedly tried to free.
Most Hong Kongers lack simple ecological common sense, with complete disregard for the species being "released" or the environment to which the animal is released in. For example, someone tried to free a freshwater tortoise into the sea, others would release pet birds from their cages which usually ends up being attacked by the local species and die from predation or starvation. Others would release predatory species such as the Snakeheads (a culinary species of fish commonly found in Hong Kong cooking) or the Alligator Snapping Turtle (a foreign species sold in Hong Kong as pets) into Hong Kong's natural waterways, which would end up going feral and cause local species to face extinction as they have no natural predators to keep their numbers in check while they consume the local fishes as food.
Those who practices the act of freeing captive animals as part of the Buddha's Birthday festivities, at least the majority of them, have no actual care for the animals being "released", it is just a "feel good activity" for them; their so-called kindness is just a pretentious act of mercy. As a Christian, their grandstanding reminds me of how Jesus berated the Pharisees for their hypocritical display of piety. In Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18 and Matthew 23:5, Christ exposed the Pharisees' hypocrisy that they perform acts of piety for feeling good about themselves, rather than actually being pious to God. Instead, Jesus urged His followers "do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Matthew 6:3), meaning that when we do acts of kindness and mercy, we do it for the sake of it and not showing off to others what a nice person you are. For in truth, as Jesus said, you would have been paid in full.
What can you do instead, if you are a Buddhist? Instead of showing mercy by haphazardly releasing animals into the wild, perhaps you could adopt a dog or a cat from the pound, where they would have been put to sleep if not claimed by someone. Of course, you have to make sure you are capable of caring for the animal, and not just merely on the spur of the moment. Otherwise, maybe you can help out at a homeless shelter in caring for those living on the streets, or be there for a teenage neighbour you know have been going through troubling times, or perhaps help a single mother in your neighbourhood to look after her child or kids?
There are countless other acts of mercy and kindness you can do, to show your piety for Buddha's teachings (if you are a Buddhist, although as a Christian I'm supposed to be turning you to Christ), other than committing evil through recklessness. More importantly, do your act of kindness with a humble heart, for the sake of mercy and kindness itself, and not expecting a reward - be it good fortune or the praise of others.
（Photo Source：Chris Brown｜CC BY SA 2.0）