The Obama administration has proposed new rules regarding elephant ivory (and rhino horn) that will effectively ban the import, sale and transfer of ALL ivory that is less than 100 years old. But here's the fun part - the 'provenance' requirements in the new ruling for proving and documenting the age of the ivory are so onerous and restrictive that they are all but impossible to meet.
Before going forward let me state for the benefit of any vegans out there that I heartily support efforts to shut down the trade in illegal ivory. The slaughter of elephants to harvest their ivory tusks is a despicable practice. However, not all ivory should be considered illegal. Here's a reality that many PETA members just can't grasp. Each year thousands of elephants die from a myriad of natural causes - old age, disease, injury, predation, starvation. In addition, each year hundreds, if not thousands, of elephants are legally culled because of over-population, overly aggressive behavior towards humans, disease and other factors. Dozens of elephants in captivity (zoos) die each year. There is simply no reason why the ivory from animals that die of natural causes or from legal culling can't be sold on the international market to support further conservation efforts. When you think of the millions of dollars that could potentially be recouped for conservation efforts through the sale of legal ivory you begin to understand how stupid a ruling like this really is.
Here's another factoid that our current administration choses to ignore. The vast majority of illegal ivory is disappearing into Asian countries and the Indian sub-continent. Very little is gets into the United States because of the lack of demand and effective enforcement. This new rule will do nothing to impact the global trade in illegal ivory; it is little more than a 'feel good' ruling designed to placate a specific constituency.
So what does this have to do with knives? Ivory has been a traditional knife handle material for hundreds of years. Ivory has been used as a decorative material since pre-Roman times, but once large supplies started to become available in Europe as far back as the 14th century ivory has been a preferred knife handle material for both fancy and work-a-day blades. There were times when ivory glutted the market, and ivory handled knives were priced cheaper than similar models sporting fancy wood or exotic stag, or precious material inlays like mother-of-pearl, jade or silver.
This means that there are tens of thousand - probably more like hundreds of thousands - of antique knives in the hands of collectors and users across the United States that have some ivory incorporated in the handle. It can be the handle slabs of a tiny, delicate woman's pen knife or the grip of a ceremonial sword. Ivory handled knives are ubiquitous. Under these new proposed rules the owners of these knives will have very limited options. They will either have to establish an extensively detailed provenance that proves to a nameless and faceless bureaucrat that the ivory on the pocket knife that belonged to their great, great grandfather really is 100 years old, or they can be buried with it.
|Did grandpa give you his grandfather's nice old ivory handled pocket knife?|
Sorry bub, but unless great grandpa kept the sales receipt you're screwed.
Try to sell it and you're an instant felon.
There are other nuances to this proposed ruling that will directly impact knife collectors and knife makers. Many knife makers have small stockpiles of ivory of all types they've legally built up over the years to meet customer demand for ivory handled knives or to build showpieces for competition. What becomes of their stockpiles if the paperwork they have doesn't meet the exacting demands of this new ruling. Right now it appears their only option is to destroy thousands of dollars of previously legal ivory just to satisfy the whim of a Washington bureaucrat.
This is yet another example of an administration run amok. What's next, declaring stainless steel illegal because it contains chromium, which is classified as a toxic material?
When I close a post I usually end it with the admonition to 'stay sharp!' Today I'll close with something a bit different...