Who Will Weep for China’s Ivory Carvers?

Stephen Wiggins Article 3 Comments

Who will weep for China’s ivory carvers when China’s proposed wide ranging ivory trading ban comes into force in 2017?

In a 6 January 2017 piece for the Guardian, Xiaomei Chen explores the notion that “’’Elephants are not the only victims’: the lament of China’s ivory lovers.

Corruption ruins the lives for all adversely affected. The illegal trafficking and trade in ivory is no exception. Firstly, current rates show that some 30,000 elephants a year (source: the ‘Elephant Census’) are brutally poached to meet the demand for illegal ivory. Then there are the brave rangers lost in the act of defence (may they RIP). The poachers caught in the act and shot, some may feel sorry for them and their families, some may not…….……..However, the hypothesis presented, is should we feel sympathy for the ‘innocent’  ivory carvers (“just making a living”) who dedicate months of skill and labour to crafting intricate ivory pieces for the avid collectors?

Well, there are always less morally reprehensible ways to make a living that does not involve the artistic materials required bring sourced from the intentional death of endangered species – time to evolve and adapt those carving skills methinks.

The argument is made, that such ‘cottage’ industry craftsmen do no consume that much ivory, working on just one or two pieces a year. So why can’t their ivory needs be sourced from elephants that have ‘naturally’ expired?

Well, we all know (or should know) that corruption would still ensue to mask elephant deaths as ‘natural’ to meet the criteria – elephants ‘naturally’ dying from toxic water sources, intentionally poisoned by poachers for example. Or, elephants ‘naturally’ dying when harvested by those ‘conservation’ minded trophy hunters and their facilitators, which soon morphs into ‘canned elephant hunts’ and/or ‘pseudo-hunting’ where the hunter’s intent is manufactured and masked to facilitate ‘legal’ access to animal body parts (‘pseudo-hunting’ remains rampant within rhino trophy hunting, with the trade in bones derived from captive bred lions recently perpetuated by CITES…..).

So no, there is only one risk free solution to protecting the elephant species from extinction, a ban on all ivory trading. Anything else just leaves exceptions and loop-holes to be exploited and abused. Of course, there may be a provision for “Antique” ivory trading and the working of pre-1989 ivory to continue, but that would be a mistake; leaving the door open just wide enough for corruption to defeat the goal of saving all elephants from human utilisation and abuse.


Figure 1 – “Analysis of Ivory Demand Drivers,” D Stiles Ph.D., September 2015

In a 2015 study “Analysis of Ivory Demand Drivers” and a Guardian piece “Is there a plan B for elephants? The next step in saving them is even harder,” 19 November 2016, D Stiles Ph.D. revealed that that 90% of all ivory pieces traded in China are illegal, plus evidence of massive stockpiling (totalling perhaps 1,000 tonnes) by speculators of poached/CITES regulated ivory taken between 2008 – 2014. How will the trade and demand ever end if the ‘market’ (black or otherwise) is allowed to continue and flourish in any shape or form?

If the government fails to pin back the illegal trade, the ban could land the smugglers a monopoly” – “Alone, China’s ban on ivory could make life worse for elephants,” The Guardian, 6 January 2016

There is also the accusation in Xiaomei Chen’s piece that it is entirely the antis’ fault, for “singling out the elephant” and campaigning for the end to ivory factories being proposed in China. I would suggest it’s the crime syndicates, traffickers, poachers and their facilitators that are too blame for the lack of international acceptance that ivory is something the elephant species should be sacrificed and eradicated for on mass.

Of course, it’s possible for us “antis” to care about more than one cause at any given time – if those making this “singling out the elephant” riposte were less wilfully deluded, they would know there are campaigns seeking China to end a wide ranging historical catalogue of animal abuse; bear bile farms, tiger breeding in appalling captivity and lion bones imported for ‘tiger bone wine,’ pangolin and rhino horn trafficking for nonsensical and hypothetical ‘medicinal’ remedies, shark-finning, dog meat trade…….……..all derived for human profiteering and vanity.

Who will weep for China’s ivory carvers? I’ll be saving my tears for those defending elephants and the elephant lives being lost to meet the nonsensical demand for ivory.


Further Reading

Comments 3

  1. Dominique

    “there are always less morally reprehensible ways to make a living that does not involve the artistic materials required bring sourced from the intentional death of endangered species – time to evolve and adapt those carving skills methinks.” exactly, like the Canadian Seal hunters, fur trappers, circus’s rodeos, bullfights, these are a few minorities that are holding onto antiquated barbaric exploitive practices for the lack of intellectually and compassionately progress into a different century.

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