Faith and Ecology Knowledge Centre

Faith Long-term Plans

The Faith Long-term Plans (FLPs) programme works with the biggest organised sector of civil society in the world – the faiths – to use their assets, investments and influence to drive practical action to benefit people and planet.

It involves each religious group developing a long-term action plan to determine how they will manage their assets and resources over the next seven to ten years. As well as providing moral leadership through example, the Plans will focus attention on the importance of profound and urgent action to

address the climate and ecological crisis ahead of COP26 and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This programme has been inspired by the success of the original Faith Commitments programme in 2009, which resulted in over 60 plans which have profoundly shaped the faiths’ response to key environmental issues.

Welcome to the International Network for Conservation and Religion (INCR)

INCR has been created to be a central hub on conservation and religion, offering the information, resources and support that faith and conservation groups need to explore and expand partnerships. INCR will collect and share knowledge and lessons learned about the value of faith-based approaches in conservation and is designed to actively connect stakeholders and stimulate partnerships at the local landscape or national and international advocacy levels.

A digital knowledge centre forms the foundation of INCR and will soon be released, please register to be kept in touch on this and other areas of INCR work. On this site users will be able to search materials, export their findings and share easily with colleagues. Users can create their own profiles, with bio text, areas of expertise and interests, linking to their professional website and networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter. These profiles can be for individuals a well as groups or projects and once registered users can upload their own material. Please contact us to discuss what requirements you may have for networks to be hosted and any other ideas you may have.

Prayer Animal Release

Prayer animal release is the mainly Buddhist and Taoist practice of releasing animals as a religious observance. It can be practiced by individuals or in larger temple organized events which may involve the release of hundreds or thousands of animals at one time. Practitioners usually hope to gain merit or good “karma” in return for their compassionate freeing of captive animals. Merit can take many forms including health and long life for practitioners and their families, favour for deceased relatives, or success in gaining wealth or buying new assets such as a house or car. Practitioners believe that the animals themselves and the ecosystems into which they are released also benefit. It has several different names reflecting the various local and regional traditions, mercy release, merit release and religious release being just a few of these. It is most common in Asia, but is practiced all over the world including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the USA. Globally, the practice of prayer animal release contributes to the capture and release of millions of animals and involves the turnover of millions of dollars in revenue.

Prayer animal release has numerous actual and potential negative effects that are at odds with the intended compassion. Animals intended for release are often captured from the wild, obtained from live animal markets or sometimes ordered from specialist suppliers. They can be kept for a long time in poor conditions until an auspicious time for release. This can cause a huge amount of suffering for animals and many animals die during capture and holding. Moreover, limited oversight means this may contribute to the illegal wildlife trade, and endangered species are often captured and released, threatening already precarious native populations. Many release animals are invasive species which themselves have many harmful impacts potentially further threatening vulnerable animal populations and ecosystems. Animals may also be released into unsuitable environments, such as wild animals released into urban situations or marine fish released into fresh water, so many die even after release. Overall, the negative impacts of prayer release far outweigh any perceived benefits.


Magellan (2019) details what is currently known about prayer animal release, particularly from an aquatic and invasive species perspective. Agoranoorthy & Hsu (2005) also focus on the problems of invasive species being released. Shui & Stokes (2008) provides a clear account of the history of, and motivation for, prayer animal release. Two policy briefs (Awoyemi et al 2012, 2016), produced by the Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group for the Society of Conservation Biology, show how our understanding of prayer animal release is evolving and provide recommendations for changing the practice and potential alternatives to be more aligned with conservation aims.

Lui et al (2012, 2013) detail two comprehensive studies of invasive species released via prayer animal release in China and conclude that ecological education is the best way to prevent environmental impacts. Finally, and especially relevant during a global pandemic, Gutiérrez et al (2011) demonstrate the potential impacts to human health through prayer animal release.