Consumers Angry Because Buddhist Monks Keep Saving Fish

Buddhist monk saving fish

Consumers at Half Moon Bay are angry at a lack of available seafood. The lack is being caused by protesting Buddhist monks. The Buddhist monks are buying the fish, blessing them with chants and mantras, and releasing them back into the ocean.  

Half Mon Bay in San Mateo, California, is a beautiful spot for anyone looking to book a vacation. And if you’re not a vegetarian you might also like to grab some fish and chips. But you’ll have to go through a group of Buddhist monks in order to get them.

Buddhist monks are buying the fish and releasing them to prevent them from being eaten.

One consumer recently wrote to the mayor of Half Moon Bay, saying, “There have been groups of individuals who seem to be affiliated with some Buddhism sect, coming to purchase all of the seafood available at the docks.” The reason for this seeming act of fish-greed? Compassion.

“The Buddhists immediately throw everything they buy back into the water as part of their religious beliefs.”

One of the primary Buddhist beliefs is compassion towards all living things.

As Norm Phelps says in his book The Great Compassion, “Buddhism ought to be an animal rights religion par excellence. It has long held that all life forms are sacred and considers kindness and compassion the highest virtues.”.

Buddhists practice many different techniques that are designed to make us more compassion to one another. Loving Kindness Meditation, for instance, is a traditional Buddhist technique that promotes kindness and compassion towards people, animals, and the natural world. (You can read more about this and other techniques in our meditation course).

Buddhists are famous for being compassionate. There are many stories about the ways in which Buddhists enact compassion towards animals.

At times, however, Buddhists have been forced to make difficult choices regarding the treatment of animals. In 1988 termites infested a Buddhist temple on the mountains of Shanghai. The monks were given the choice of seeing the temple destroyed or killing the termites. Reluctantly, they chose to kill the termites.

The situation at Half Moon Bay, however, is a different story altogether. There is no beautiful Buddhist temple in jeopardy here (though you can visit a Buddhist monastery in the area). The only people at loss are those wanting to eat fish.

The Buddhist monks are not just releasing the fish, either. They’re blessing them.

One bystander said, “The Buddhist monks will bless the crab and recite chants to them”. The reciting of chants, or mantras, is a common practice in Buddhism. These mantras and chants are sacred and are used to bestow blessings on the chanter or on the person the chant is recited to (here, the crab).

People at Half Moon Bay are demanding that the mayor make it illegal for the Buddhists to buy all the fish, so that consumers can still, you know, eat them.

In a letter to the mayor, one man said, “I’ve enjoyed Half Moon Bay for many years.  I am worried about these people compromising Half Moon Bay’s seafood business…”

An ironic side-effect of the Buddhist protest, however, is that the fishing business is actually benefiting. This isn’t a violent protest. In fact it’s more an act of Buddhist charity towards animals than anything else. The Buddhist monks are not stealing the fish. They are buying them in order to save them. The fishing industry is actually benefiting from the protest. Seemingly the only losers are those who want to eat the fish.

Either way, the mayor’s hands are tied because she does not have jurisdiction over the harbor.

The mayor is leaving it up to the fishermen whether they want legal action to be taken. But when the fisherman are profiting by this protest, does that seem likely?

This peaceful protest raises many questions. Should there be limits on the amount of food any one person can buy? Is the protest actually going to help fish in the long run (it is, after all, benefiting the fishing industry because the Buddhist monks are buying the fish)? Is the Buddhist monks’ behavior ethical (it’s compassion towards animals) or not (it’s inconveniencing other people)?

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