The 50 members of the “Let Blessings and Wisdom Grow” Buddhist group left Beijing in a nine vehicle convoy last Friday, driving for half a day with their cargo of snakes into the countryside of Hebei province.
Once they reached their destination, they chanted a ritual and released the snakes. However, they were soon spotted by a man from Miao Erdong who alerted the rest of the village.
The police were called, and quickly impounded three of the group’s vehicles, as the snakes slithered into the undergrowth. Li Guohua, the head of the village committee, said snakes were soon spotted inside some of their homes.
“There is one girl in our village who has Down’s syndrome and her parents are now scared of leaving her by herself in the house,” he said.
. . . Nor is Miao Erdong the only village to have suffered at the hands of Buddhists recently. Over the past two months, five villagers in Suizhong, in Liaoning province, have been bitten by snakes, with one reported death. Zhang Zhicheng, a villager, lamented to the Chinese media that their land was a hot spot for compassionate Buddhists.
In Luquanshan village, meanwhile, an apricot seller named as Mr Feng said he had seen a number of cars approaching, filled with what he thought were tourists. But then, he said, he saw them carrying some 20 boxes with roughly 1,000 snakes inside.
In Taiwan, the government is considering a ban on the practice.
Officials said a large number of the 200 million or so animals released each year die shortly afterwards, either eaten by predators or unable to fend for themselves in the wild. Offenders could face two years in prison.