So why do some Oregon legislators want to ban the selling of mammoth ivory even though all the mammoths are long dead? Because they believe that it’s too hard to tell the difference between ivory from extinct mammoths and ivory from elephants facing extincton now.
But this is a strange approach to the writing of criminal law: “We can’t tell the difference, so we’re going to outlaw a perfectly harmless item even though doing so will harm some people by taking away their business and lots of others by depriving them of the value of some of their property since they won’t be able to sell it.”
On March 24,the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 913, which would make trading in all kinds of ivory and rhinoceros tusk material a misdemeanor punishable by a month in jail plus a fine of more than $1,000. From witnesses, the committee learned that it’s not true that elephant ivory and mammoth ivory can’t be distinguished. Color and certain lines in the ivory tell them apart. Members also learned that mammoth tusks are occasionally unearthed in the frozen north, where the animals’ remains were preserved even though the species died out more than 10,000 years ago.
A scrimshaw artist from Port Orford told the committee he quit using elephant ivory and now depends on mammoth material to continue his livelihood.
The idea of SB 913 is to end the illegal killing of African elephants for their tusks. But there’s already a federal law against importing elephant ivory, and and yet the supporters of the bill say the poaching continues, endangering the survival of African elephants as a species.
Now Oregon is supposed to make a difference in this outrage against animals far, far away? Maybe Oregon legislators ought to quit fretting so much about worlwide issues Oregon can’t actually affect — like the alleged human influence on climate change and the very real killing of thousands of African elephants — and just concentrate on Oregon problems it can do something about. Some guy carving on mammoth tusks and selling the result to tourists, that’s not a problem that needs to worry our lawmakers overly much. (hh)