A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Oregon, elephants and mammoths

Written March 30th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
The woolly mammoth was gone millennia before even the pioneers arrived in Oregon,

The woolly mammoth was gone millennia before even the pioneers arrived in Oregon,

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)


2 responses to “Oregon, elephants and mammoths”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    Not everything that may have some merit needs to become a law. You are right on that point.

    Elected officials are always inundated with requests from constituents to take action on things that the voter has an interest in. Being people who ran for office on a sincere desire to change things for the better, regardless of political ideology, elected officials “carry the water” for their voters.

    Indiana is taking a lot of heat today over their “Religious Freedom” law. You pointed out a month or so ago a bill being floated by Andy Olsen to exempt a property owner whose property land-locks state park land from eminent domain, even though no one has proposed using eminent domain.

    This is the way government works in a democracy.

    Elected representatives have an obligation to support the needs of the people who elected them, and the responsibility to sometimes say no. We all know that saying no to family, friends and neighbors is often a hard thing to do.

    Especially when saying yes doesn’t require a lot of effort, and when few people are affected by the decision.

  2. Theodore Lee Salmons says:

    Yet another “feel good” law. As if there aren’t enough regulations and an existing Federal Law prohibiting the import of ivory. But as usual the knee jerkers feel that if they can only pass one more law like this all will be good with the world and the elephants will love them forever for saving their lives. Apparently they’ve gotten all the serious problems taken care of like an abysmal school graduation rate. Oh yeah throw more money at that one. And all full day free daycare (read kindergarten) when every valid study has shown that by the third grade the difference between attenders and non-attenders doesn’t exist.


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