A popular way of making merit for Buddhists in Thailand to gain good karma in preparation for their reincarnation, is to release animals from captivity into the wild. These can be small birds, fish, tortoises and other small animals.
Accumulating good Karma is essential for a better future life. However, in Thailand, this way of making merit has come in for a good deal of criticism recently. The theory behind this making merit by releasing animals trapped in the wild, caged to become house pets or even worse, destined for the cooking pot, is that by saving their lives people will receive good karma. Unfortunately, as you will see in many Thailand Temples, a few people have discovered a way to make easy money, taking advantage of Thai Buddhist’s desire to make merit, by catching these wild animals and selling them outside Temples or other public areas for release. These animals are often caught, sold and released many times. Sadly, in many cases, far from saving the lives of these animals, the practice causes distress and sometimes death. The problem has become so widespread that many Temples have banned these animal sellers altogether but there are still plenty around. If people were to stop buying the animals from these sellers, the problem would soon disappear.