I’ve been writing a lot lately about the Big Agribusiness corporations fighting the reforms of California’s Proposition 2, blinded by the bottom line. So it’s a welcome change of pace to tell you about a major multi-national company that has taken a strong stand for animals.
This Monday we received a call from eBay, the world’s best known online auction giant, telling us it’s decided to ban trade in ivory of any kind beginning Jan. 1, 2009. This decision follows years of collegial discussions on a variety of animal issues.
Back in 2002, an HSUS investigation into the ivory trade found thousands of ivory objects for sale on eBay every day. At the time, the company took the position that the ivory trade was acceptable so long as there was no evidence it was illegal. The problem then, and still today, is that trade in some kinds of ivory is legal: antiques more than 100 years old, ivory from mammoths, or ivory imported to the United States before domestic and international law prohibited it. So traders slide ivory into the country through the existing loopholes, claiming the ivory is antique, mammoth, or imported by their grandfather in 1951.
And cyberspace provides an ideal opportunity for smugglers to conduct business. The sellers and buyers are anonymous. The goods are shipped by mail. Even the most discerning buyer can get hoodwinked.
eBay’s decision will deny ivory traffickers an important marketplace to sell their goods and it will save some elephants from poachers by drying up a major sales pathway. As many as 23,000 African elephants are poached annually. China is the leading destination for most of this ivory—about one-third of the ivory for sale in the United States was recently carved and illegally imported from China. And a lot of that ivory is offered on eBay.
But come the New Year, it won’t be any longer. Detailing eBay’s decision, Senior Regulatory Counsel Jack Christin wrote in an email to our global affiliate Humane Society International: “We too are concerned that the global demand for ivory has been a significant factor in the poaching of endangered and protected species, especially African and Asian elephants. In order to protect our buyers and sellers, as well as animals in danger of extinction, we have taken the proactive measure to institute a global ban on the sale of all types of ivory.”
eBay has done the right thing. Let’s hope that others follow in reaching for a high standard of social responsibility.