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Daybook + Huffington Post: Is Ivory Always Wrong?

This is x-posted on Huffington Post:

Yesterday, South Africa held a controversial auction: of elephant tusks, 51 tons to be exact. This auction was sanctioned by the UN body which oversees trade in endangered species; the tusks came from elephants that died naturally or were culled as part of a population control program, the BBC reports.

I am not a vegetarian, I eat meat, and I wear leather. But I cannot condone the killing of an animal simply for purposes of adornment –whether its jewelery from ivory, or clothing from its skin. I am revolted by fur.

But, I have on my wrist a bracelet made of intricately carved walrus ivory, which came from the Alaskan island of Little Diomede. Alaska natives are allowed to use walrus ivory, and in fact, create beautiful works of art using everything from the whiskers to the inner layer of the intestines. (Which can be unrolled into a waterproof material that resembles crushed silk, and is used to make waterproof parkas.) 

I am not revolted by my bracelet, or by any of it, because I know that the artists that are creating these works are living in communities, if not households, that use every single bit of the animal –they eat what's edible, and use the rest to create clothing, tools, jewelery, art work. (Much of which you can see at the new Alaska House, New York gallery in Soho in New York.) And back to South Africa, if the elephants are not being hunted for their ivory tusks, but are gone already, then what's the ethical case for letting what's left go to waste?

What do you think?

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