San Francisco: Butterflies Aren't Party Favors

  • By: Alicia Graef
  • Target: San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Last week the Commission on the Environment heard testimony from experts about the effects of releasing commercially bred butterflies for special occasions, such as weddings or funerals, which environmentalists believe is hurting butterflies and hindering efforts to protect them in the wild.

According to experts, releasing them may seem like a lovely gesture, but doing so causes more problems for both the butterflies that are bred in captivity and released and for native populations than people seem to be aware of.

Setting farm-raised butterflies free can cause a number of issues from spreading diseases that can result in making native populations weaker or cause die-offs and adding bad genes to populations of wild butterflies that are a result of being overbred. Experts are also worried about how releases confuse the study of natural butterfly populations, their locations and migration patterns, which we don't understand very well.

Worse is that the industry has created a commercial market for live butterflies, which is threatening butterflies like Monarchs who are in a steady decline and are now being taken from their overwintering sites in Mexico and California by poachers to be sold to the public.

Additionally, many are also worried about the cruelty involved in shipping them long distances and that setting them free in the wrong place at the wrong time of year may result in a moment of wonder for us, but it's a death sentence for butterflies who will be disoriented in the wrong climate with little chance of survival.

Please sign the petition urging San Francisco's Board of Supervisors to send a message that butterflies aren't party favors by banning the release of commercially bred butterflies.

As a nature enthusiast, I was thrilled to learn that San Francisco is considering a ban on the release of commercially bred butterflies.

As experts testified before the Commission on the Environment, there are a myriad of valid scientific and ethical reasons this practice should be banned. Not only do releases cause problems for farm-raised butterflies, but they also threaten wild populations by potentially spreading diseases and confuses the study of natural butterfly populations, their locations and migration patterns, which we don't understand very well.   

Additionally, many are concerned about the cruelty inherent in shipping butterflies long distances and that setting them free in the wrong place at the wrong time of year may result in a moment of wonder for us, but it's a death sentence for butterflies who will be disoriented in the wrong climate with little chance of survival.

Stories of releases that have gone terribly wrong with butterflies arriving dead or halfway there have deterred some from the practice, but it still continues.

I sincerely hope that San Francisco will take a stand against the use of living creatures as party favors and encourage our respect for wildlife by banning the release of commercially bred butterflies.

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