Strange assignment: Buddhists and lobsters
By Brian Snyder
Every story and photograph that goes out on the Reuters wire has a ‘slug,’ which is a short, one or two word way of coordinating and categorizing pictures and stories. For example, photographs from a Red Sox baseball game are slugged BASEBALL. But the slug for a recent story I photographed, BUDDHISTS/LOBSTERS, combined two words I never thought I would see together.
Reporter Lauren Keiper and I recently joined a group of practicing Buddhists in Gloucester, Massachusetts for a ceremony to release over 500 lobsters back into the ocean. The ceremony coincided with the Buddhist holiday “Chokhor Duchen” or “Wheel Turning Day.” Buddhists believe animal liberation helps them live longer, especially when performed on holidays when they believe the consequences of their actions are multiplied. The lobsters, which would have otherwise been headed to restaurants, were bought at a local wholesaler.
Full disclosure: I’m an omnivore, and living in Boston, my diet includes lobster.
After the group of 30 Buddhists prayed around an altar set up in a parking lot, we set out on a whale watch boat to a point about a mile offshore. The boxes of lobsters were opened, the rubber bands holding their claws closed were cut off and one by one the lobsters were dropped off the boat back into the ocean.
Returning to shore, Buddhist monk Geshe Tenley stood at the rail near the bow of the boat and gleefully let his robes unfurl in the wind. His broad smile reflected the mood of the Buddhists on the boat.
Several days later, in an apparent joke, a blogger reported that local lobstermen had dropped traps at the spot where the lobsters were released, and re-caught all of them. The blogger has since apologized. But even if the joke were true, I think that it still would have missed the point of the actions the Buddhists took that evening.