Mr. Cade London
Special Assistant, USFWS International Affairs
Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking
4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 110
Arlington, VA 22203
VIA EMAIL: email@example.com
Re: Request for Public Input – Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking Public Meeting March 20, 2014
Knife Rights represents America’s millions of knife owners, knifemakers, scrimshaw artists, knife retailers and suppliers to knifemakers and scrimshaw artists, many of whom own legally acquired ivory or knives with ivory components.
I am writing in opposition to imposition of rules by the U.S. that will virtually ban all commercial sales and trade in ivory within the United States. This action unfairly and illegally persecutes honest ivory owners who find their investment in legally acquired ivory “taken” by government edict and made worthless, their livelihood stolen from them in some cases. They now find themselves not only treated as criminals, but also without any onus on the government to prove illicit activity. Rather, they must prove their innocence, an offense to America’s longstanding legal principles and protections of its citizen’s rights.
Knife Rights and all those we represent unequivocally support science-based conservation efforts that have proven successful in posting significant gains in elephant populations in Africa and Asia over the past few decades. Knife Rights and those we represent unequivocally support practical and lawful efforts to defend elephants in the field from poachers as well as lawful enforcement activities that directly target illegal black-market trade in ivory. This ivory ban accomplishes none of these effective and proven objectives.
To the contrary, it is reasonable to expect that the unintended consequences of this irrational and unlawful ivory ban, although not unforeseen by many, may well be an increase in the poaching and senseless slaughter of elephants. That is the exact opposite of the desired outcome.
This action is not supported by facts or science, unlawfully punishing America’s legal ivory owners. All this flies in the face of the reality that there is no significant illegal ivory problem in the U.S. Studies by ETIS (the Elephant Trade Information System set up by CITES) indicate that virtually none of the ivory from elephants being poached in Africa today is coming to the U.S. (“African Elephant Summit Background Document 2013,” pages 16-18). Another study by ETIS indicated that laws passed in the U.S. have little effect on elephant populations (“Martin Stiles Ivory Markets in the US,” page 5). These same studies indicate that the U.S. is already the world leader in the fight against trafficking of illicit animal parts, out of 89 counties studied, and by a significant margin. Finally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, charged with enforcement of this ivory ban, in their September 2012 Fact Sheet states, “we do not believe that there is a significant illegal ivory trade into this country.”
The huge increase in demand for ivory in China, which prompts continued poaching, has been triggered by the significantly increased buying power of China’s citizens, which has driven up the price of many items, and their government’s lax controls on black-market ivory. Nothing that penalizes owners of legal ivory in the U.S. will have any effect on that demand. Taken together with the studies referenced, clearly, this ban is a hypocritical and ineffective solution in search of a problem.
While promoters of this ivory ban claim that existing ivory owners would be protected if they provide proof of their ivory being legal, that claim is disingenuous, at best, unrealistic as well, and also unlawfully puts the burden of proof on the owner or seller who is guilty until he proves himself innocent.
While the new rules excludes “antique” ivory that is over 100 years old, it also requires proof that the ivory is antique, which doesn’t exist in the vast majority of cases. Suggested alternative means to provide proof when there is no paper trail are impossible, unrealistic or unreasonable in many, if not most, cases. Any scientific analysis that can provide ironclad proof of antiquity costs so much that it is beyond the reach of the majority of ivory owners.
Ivory which isn’t “antique,” but which was legally imported prior to restrictions (1975 for Asian elephant ivory and 1990 for African elephant ivory), represents the majority of ivory in the U.S. For most owners of ivory there’s no proof to be had because any ivory imported prior to the existing import restrictions did not require any documentation. Any ivory imported since the restrictions were in place only required documentation for import, not subsequent sale within the U.S. This represents a Catch 22 for ivory owners and those who work or trade in ivory.
And, it’s a Catch 22 made even worse for there being no requirement that USFWS provide proof of the ivory being illegal. Beyond this unreasonable basis for prosecution, Knife Rights is also seriously concerned about enforcement by USFWS agents who have no ability to differentiate between now-prohibited elephant ivory and other forms of still legal ivory. Many other types of ivory, both fossil and from other animals, and even faux ivory from flora, appear the same to the minimally trained eye. Some are virtually impossible to differentiate without detailed and very expensive laboratory analysis. Without need to prove guilt, they are free to take a “kill them all, let God sort it out” attitude toward enforcement-arrest anyone and seize anything that might possibly appear to now be illegal and let the innocent victims deal with the terrifying and expensive legal assault by the government. That all-too-likely possibility should be offensive to law-abiding Americans and this Council. This effective “taking” of heretofore legal private property of millions of citizens is a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It is also an offense to longstanding American rights, freedoms and values of fairness and equity.
If the goal is to reduce poaching, as is claimed and which should be the primary focus of such efforts, then the funds wasted on this irrational attack on Americans ivory owners could be far better used to provide additional protection for the elephants in their native lands and to push those countries in Asia that represent the vast majority of traffic in illegal ivory to better police their own countries.
This ivory ban is ill-conceived, offensive and illegal. The new rules should be immediately rescinded and we should go back to what has effectively worked for decades to restrict illegal trade in ivory in the U.S. and that does not unfairly penalize American ivory owners for others’ illegal and immoral activities that continue to threaten elephants, and which this ivory ban does nothing to ameliorate.
Douglas S. Ritter
Knife Rights, Inc.
DEADLINE To WRITE is TODAY! The Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, instigators of this outrageous ban, will be holding a meeting on March 20, 2014. Information on the meeting can be found at: http://1.usa.gov/1fgsZbN Please submit a written letter NO LATER THAN March 17 to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For those tempted to attend, please note that they allocate only 30 minutes to the “public,” so the actual time to speak is often less than two minutes, according to those in the know.
Call or Write Today! Now is the time to start making your views heard. Please email and call the White House at 1-202-456-1111 and email and call the Fish and Wildlife Service at 1-800-344-9453, to let them know you oppose this ban on sale and trade of legally owned ivory, and specifically, knives with ivory components.
Also, please call or email your Congressman at 1-202-224-3121 and ask them to oppose the Ivory Ban. Locate your Congressman at: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
When you write, PLEASE BE POLITE. The more personalized it is, the more impact it has. Just copying the points below is better than nothing, but it is far better to put it into your own words and emphasize your own situation, how it effects you, and your personal point of view.
The points to emphasize:
- While you strongly support conservation efforts, this will likely result in an increase in elephant poaching, opposite what is intended. This will only lead to more slaughter of elephants!
- “Takes” hundreds of millions of dollars of Americans’ investments in ivory in violation of the 5th Amendment.
- Presumes guilt, making all ivory owners criminals, no need for the government to factually establish illicit activity, which is both un-American and irrational.
- No practical way for most Americans to establish their ivory is legal. Establishing exceptions based on evidence virtually nobody can provide is patently abusive.
- The current system and rules have proven effective at restricting U.S. trade in illegal ivory, no need to fix what’s not broken. The problem is not the U.S. and this outrageous ban in the U.S will not affect the huge market for illegal black market ivory in China and elsewhere. In its September 2012 Fact Sheet, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) stated, “we do not believe that there is a significant illegal ivory trade into this country,” clear proof by the agency enforcing this ban that this is not a problem in the U.S.