Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Demand For Ivory Leads To Slaughtering Of Elephants

Ritual Sacrifice

The demand for ivory is so high that tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year for their tusks, which are carved into religious artifacts, says an article in National Geographic by Oliver Payne; this is taking place despite an international ban that has been in place since 1990. Ivory's veneration crosses religious boundaries and is revered among Catholics in the Philippines, among Muslims in Egypt and among Buddhists in China, the nation with the greatest demand:
The elephant is revered in Buddhism and is a symbol of Thailand. Monks there give out ivory amulets in return for donations. Kruba Dharmamuni, a prominent monk known as the Elephant Monk, wears an ivory elephant-head pendant suspended from ivory prayer beads representing the 108 human passions.
"Ivory removes bad spirits," Dharmamuni told National Geographic. Ivory also earns him money. The Elephant Monk takes in thousands of dollars a month from amulets of ivory and other materials sold in his temple gift shop.
In China, religious themes are common in carved ivory pieces. Newly rich Chinese are snapping up ivory in the form of Buddhist and Taoist gods and goddesses. Prices can be astronomical: Christy reports seeing a carved ivory Guanyin on sale for the equivalent of U.S. $215,000. Guanyin is the Buddhist goddess of mercy, a Madonna-like figure who doubles as a fertility goddess.
Buddhist monks in China perform a ceremony called kai guang, the opening of light, to consecrate religious icons, just as some Filipino priests will bless Catholic images made of illegal ivory for their followers. "To be respectful of the Buddha," the report quotes a Chinese collector, "one should use precious material. If not ivory then gold. But ivory is more precious."
For those who complain about Jewish ritual slaughter of cows, which is done humanely for human consumption, here is something to think about. Tens of thousands of African elephants are slaughtered each year, many en masse with automatic weapons like AK47s, in such nations as Chad, Cameroon, Kenya and Tanzania. It's a killing field and is not a pretty sight. This illegal practice will, sadly, continue as long as the demand is there, and as long as the world remains silent about it.

You can read the full article, "Blood Ivory," by Bryan Christy at [National Geographic]

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