Friday, August 26, 2011

Butterfly releases and cruelty issues

Butterfly farming in Marinduque started in the early 60s when a local enthusiast turned his hobby of collecting butterflies as dried specimens into an export-oriented livelihood.

Today, as a leading supplier of butterflies in the country many butterfly by-products are produced on this island. Moreover, live butterfly releases during weddings, debuts, birthdays and special occasions continue to attract many followers who resort to the practice to inject something unique and enchanting into a celebration.

But there is a cruelty issue pala with butterfly releases that may eventually affect one's perception about this practice. I am also aware that many hotels and malls have banned live butterfly releases as the poor creatures are sucked in airconditioning vents and die violent deaths as they go down the ducts, also causing unit malfunctions.


Below is an article from and it is titled:

What's Wrong With Butterfly Releases? Fatal Flaws

There are at least 35 companies in North America that sell butterflies for releases at special events such as weddings, fairs, and memorials; some experts put the number closer to 60. It is a profitable business, with an average cost of about $10 per butterfly. They are stuffed into envelopes or paper bags, where they remain during shipping, right through to release. The butterfly releases are often sad events with many of the animals struggling to take flight and many already dead inside the packages.

Aside from the cruelty issue, many entomologists, biologists, and environmental experts have reported concern about butterfly releases. Shipping butterflies to areas where they are not native threatens biodiversity and also raises concerns about the spread of disease among strains of butterflies, as well as among the plants that they pollinate. It makes conservation nearly impossible, since an understanding of natural habitats and migratory patterns is essential to saving a species. Finally, the environment where butterflies are released is often not suitable for them, and many end up dying shortly after release.

Photo: Eddy Van 3000

Robert Michael Pyle, founder of the Xerces Society (a society dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates), as well as the author of 15 books, including a field guide to butterflies, says, “Quite apart from questions of disease transmission, mixing genes, and disrupting studies of butterfly distribution (my own particular concern), this activity is seldom any good for the butterflies in question: They end up being released [in] unsuitable times, places, and weather conditions, resulting in death, disorientation, or pointless flight in the absence of nectar, mates, or the right habitat. I feel treating butterflies as if they were mere living balloons is both cruel and degrading. I would far rather have a butterfly be dispatched as a scientific specimen with basic data, for what it can teach us, than to be shipped across the country only to be ‘freed’ into a storm or an otherwise unsuitable setting, all for narcissistic human gratification.”

Sample of Marinduque butterfly by-products. More humane then?

Increasingly, professional wedding planners are discouraging the practice since it is not uncommon to end up “releasing” a box of dead butterflies. PETA has started to receive complaints from horrified people who have participated in such events. One example is the butterfly release at the 2000 Terry Fox Run. When the small bags containing the butterflies were opened, many of them simply fell out and either lay immobile or were trampled by the runners. Thankfully, in response to our letters, the John Wayne Cancer Institute and the Terry Fox Foundation have announced that they will no longer include butterfly releases as a part of the running event.

Many states have restricted or banned commercial butterfly release, including Oregon, Alaska, and Washington.

Tell friends and family members planning weddings or other special events that butterfly releases are inhumane. Remind them that butterflies are sensitive creatures, and shipping problems or small variations in the weather will result in envelopes of dead or dying butterflies, which will certainly ruin a special moment. Suggest environmentally friendly, compassionate alternatives, such as throwing flower petals.