Some Folks Will Say Anything, But “Farming Elephants for Ivory”?

IFAW believes in the precautionary principle and so we want to do all we can to protect elephants.These days, it seems like any idea casually dropped in a coffee break conversation can be, if repeated often enough, and forcibly enough, taken seriously by those not really interested in finding solutions. Over the past decade, I have learned that I could hear opposing views utter just about anything as I try to convince those same people to do the right thing by animals.   Some things are said in anger and some are said out of ignorance and some are just said.

These days, it seems like any idea casually dropped in a coffee break conversation can be, if repeated often enough, and forcibly enough, taken seriously by those not really interested in finding solutions. Over the past decade, I have learned that I could hear opposing views utter just about anything as I try to convince those same people to do the right thing by animals.   Some things are said in anger and some are said out of ignorance and some are just said.

I have always been fascinated, and sometimes, disconcerted by the anger that some people display when they find out who I am, who I work for and what I do.   I am often asked why I don’t work to improve the lives of people suffering around the world instead of helping protect animals.

I try to concentrate on the big picture, though, knowing that are many great causes that people around the world support.   I am often pressed for conservation solutions based on economic principles or livelihood considerations.  I am asked to explain why the International Fund for Animal Welfare does what it does and to be precise in explaining the differences between conservation, animal welfare and animal rights  but  I know, that deep down, helping to save animals is simply the right thing to do.  It is not the only right thing to do across the world but it is definitely one of the right things to do.

Some of you may have already read my blog about my encounter with the Minister of Botswana while attending the E8 meeting in New Delhi but it turns out that the most outrageous thing I heard at the meeting came from a completely different source.  In the course of discussing why the International Fund for Animal Welfare does not support trade in ivory I found myself in this conversation:

“IFAW believes in the precautionary principle and so we want to do all we can to protect elephants.  If there is a chance that selling ivory can lead to poachers slaughtering elephants for their ivory then we will oppose the sale of ivory.” I explained.

“Just to play Devil’s Advocate,” offered my tea break acquaintance,  “ why is IFAW opposed to farming elephants?”

“Farming Elephants!” I blurted out almost choking on my cookie.  “ Who ever said anything about farming elephants?”

In all my days working to try to save the lives of animals, never once have I ever heard anyone suggest farming elephants for their ivory.  Even in the most heated conversations, with people who seem to really believe that elephants have to pay their own way on this earth, have I ever heard such a proposal.

“What on earth are you talking about?” I asked perhaps a bit too forcefully.

“Well”, he said, “why not; I mean if we need the ivory.”

I don’t get paid to be speechless but alas, there I was.  I also sensed this was a dangerous moment.

These days, it seems like any idea casually dropped in a coffee break conversation can be, if repeated often enough, and forcibly enough, taken seriously by those not really interested in finding solutions.  They are looking for sound bites and this one was a doozy!  I have seen these arguments take on a life of their own and so struggled to overcome my own vision of elephants in iron pens being kept until they could be killed for their teeth.

“First of all”, I started.  “No-one needs ivory.”  “Secondly, your proposal raises so many ethical questions that I don’t really know where to start.”

“Don’t get upset”, he said.  “I was just wondering.  You are right, it is an awful idea.”

I hope I never hear that idea coming up again and, if I do, I hope it will be just as easy to convince the next misguided soul that it is an awful idea.

IFAW as an organization is mounting a campaign in the European Union focused on communicating the direct connection of ivory sales to the deaths of African elephants.

It is our hope that through this campaign we can convince the EU delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to protect African elephant populations once and for all through the outright ban of any ivory trade and the increased protection of that species.

We’re going to need your help to do it.

-- AD

Comments: 1

 
Anonymous
5 years ago

Let's hope that this "idea" won't become a trend. Unbelievable that some people can even remotely vision the idea of farming elephants. Its sick :(

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Chief of Staff, International Fund for Animal Welfare
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Vice President for International Operations
Vice President for International Operations
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Rikkert Reijnen, Programme Director Wildlife Crime, IFAW Netherlands
Programme Director Wildlife Crime, IFAW Netherlands
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy