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EBay Pressured To Block Sales of Ivory Products 261

RickRussellTX writes "eBay is being pressured by an animal welfare group to ban sales of ivory and animal tooth products on its site. Although eBay is in compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species when it warns users that such postings may be inviolation of national and international law, the International Fund for Animal Welfare is demanding that they go a step further to search for and delete any posting of ivory products."
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EBay Pressured To Block Sales of Ivory Products

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  • by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:59AM (#23681423)
    Where there is a demand, someone will supply, and a market will spring up. Perhaps eBay should get out on moral grounds, but if these folks think it will make a dent in the trade, they are naive.
  • by oahazmatt ( 868057 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:00AM (#23681429) Journal
    That will work great for my new eBay listing...

    African Elephant - tusks removed - contains 0% Ivory!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Or mine - an elephant penis cudgel. It's infused with epoxy and guaranteed to never corrode or break when you crack it against the skull of some Free Mumia loser.
  • Pianos (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:00AM (#23681439)
    Well then - how am I going to sell my old piano then?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      a lot of pianos, even many old pianos, use plastic rather than ebony and ivory keys.

      Even when ivory was legal everywhere to buy, it was very, very expensive; thus it wasn't used in many pianos once plastic keys were invented
      • Re:Pianos (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rivaldufus ( 634820 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @11:14AM (#23682401)
        It depends on the age. The pianos I had growing up were quite old and all had Ivory veneer. As far as I know, the actual key mechanism is always wood, with the veneer... the same is usually true with modern pianos - wooden key with plastic veneer.

        Even ignoring the fact that someone killed an elephant to get the ivory for the keys, I've always hated playing on ivory keys as they would break more easily than plastic.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Myopic ( 18616 )
          Wow that's weird. I read all the way down to your comment before I realized that the rest of you think ivory comes from elephants. Where I'm from, ivory comes from walruses.
    • They strip it out of pianos that are imported into the US. It doesn't matter when it was made, they'll still destroy it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      It's no problem for you to sell your piano w/ ivory keys domestically (I work for a piano retailer, we sell/repair/rebuild ivory key pianos all the time), however it is illegal to import or export any piano with ivory keys. Piano keys are wood (spruce) with ivory or plastic keytops, not solid ivory or plastic. Some manufacturers today use a synthetic ivory compound that simulates many of the properties of ivory (slightly porous to absorb sweat and oil from the fingers). An interesting tidbit is that one ma
  • eBay isn't going to do anything about it.

    Ebay isn't interested in policing the existing business to protect users, so you can be damned sure it won't do anything for elephants.
  • Won't happen. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by snarfies ( 115214 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:02AM (#23681475) Homepage
    Ebay does not give a crap, so long as they get their cut. Want proof? Go ahead and report any of the THOUSANDS of Taiwanese bootleg anime DVDs on Ebay and see if even one gets yanked.

    I'll save you some time - they won't. Last time I tried (and this, I will confess, was almost a decade ago) I was told to provide proof that I was the copyright holder.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > Ebay does not give a crap, so long as they get their cut. Want proof?

      Will happen. E-Bay does not allow auctions of guns or gun part or most other gun related items, though they could make money from the sales.

      Politically they lean on the side of the tree huggers, so I'm sure they will help the animal lovers.. :)
      • Politically they lean on the side of the tree huggers, so I'm sure they will help the animal lovers.. :)

        It'd be nice if there was a competing site that didn't dictate morality then. It's one thing to restrict illegal activity, and sensible. It's another to restrict legal activity on your own perception of morality. They're a for profit, publicly traded company. To me, it sounds like they're not maximizing profit to their shareholders if they're making choices as to what people can or can't sell, even legally. What about those of us who aren't Vegan, Pro-Gun Control, Environmental Activists that simply w

      • And further, Ebay payment site Paypal will not allow transactions for the items you mention even if the sale doesn't involve Ebay.

        If you leave any clues in your Paypal description that the money is for, say, a DIAS module, they'll cancel the transaction.

        If you frequent the for sale forums at places like Sniper's Hide you'll see many posts asking for 'discreet Paypal'.
    • Comment removed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:26AM (#23681781)
      Comment removed based on user account deletion
    • Another example of Ebay actually policing their auctions. Hasbro has recently been getting a lot of Transformer knock-offs removed.
  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:05AM (#23681499) Journal
    Reading the story, it doesn't seem like there's a single demonstrated case of illegal ivory sale on EBay, just a lot of numbers being thrown around about ivory sales overall.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Otter ( 3800 )
      The other curious thing is that the story claims (quoting the IFAW guy, I guess) that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits are required for legal sales in the US and then goes on to to state that there are no such permits! It's surprising enough that the "expert" doesn't have even a basic understanding of the law, but you'd think the writer would at least go back and correct an earlier paragraph!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Hungus ( 585181 )
        I have not checked for ivory but it would not be surprising if both statements were true. marijuana and Alcohol were both regulated in this way at recent points in history here in the US. You had to have a tax permit to carry, buy or sell either but there were no tax permits available. It was just a way of making trade illegal without "violating" the constitution.
        • The permits were available, but you had to have the stuff first to get the permit, which is illegal to have without the permit. Catch-22s are fun.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tzhuge ( 1031302 )
            I don't think it's a Catch-22. It sounds more like grandfathering. You can only get the permit for ivory you already have prior to the ban, and I'm guessing you can sell that ivory w/ the permit. It's just that you can't get any new ivory fresh off the elephants.
            • No, I think he was talking about marijuana being a catch-22. You had to take it to the licensing office to get the permit. But once you got there, you would be arrested for having it without the permit. It was on the History channel a while back.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Otter ( 3800 )
          I have not checked for ivory but it would not be surprising if both statements were true.

          Well, if you RTFA, the Fish and Wildlife Service guy states that permits are not required, in contrast to what both IFAW and EBay are saying.

  • Boo Hoo (Score:2, Interesting)

    As long as eBay is following the law they should tell those bleeding hearts to go pound sand.
    • I by no means toe the politically correct line are either ignorant or heartless. []

      • you are either ignorant or heartless

        Ah, why can't it be both?
        • you are either ignorant or heartless
          Ah, why can't it be both?
          If you don't know, then I guess that puts you in the ignorant category :-)
      • Re:Boo Hoo (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bigstrat2003 ( 1058574 ) * on Friday June 06, 2008 @11:16AM (#23682437)

        you are either ignorant or heartless.
        Not caring about an issue is not the same as heartlessness. I don't give a flying fsck about the plight of the elephants, but I'm about as far from heartless as they come. Everyone has some things they don't care about, that doesn't make them bad people.
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )
        As long as they follow the law, then they should ignore these request.
        If people want it illegal, then they should focus their energy on making it illegal.

        I see this shit too often.
        People protesting fir stores instead of trying to change the law putting legal business out of business through unethical tactics, People protesting a company the sponsors legal events, instead of focusing on the event.
        It's just mean, unethical bully tactics, and we shouldn't stand for it.
  • I have no problem with this at all. No one in the world is supposed to be permitted to sell anything but antique ivory. So why would eBay be exempted from this?
    • by Z34107 ( 925136 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:14AM (#23681619)

      They're not exempted from this - I haven't read the article yet (of course) but it says ebay follows all of the laws.

      This group wants them to go not sell any Ivory - no antiques, pianos, etc. Nothing. Even if it's perfectly legal.

      Next will be any fur and leather products. Stay tuned!

    • eBay doesn't sell ivory. eBay sells an item listing and auction service.

    • by Bayoudegradeable ( 1003768 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:26AM (#23681763)
      Not going for flamebait here... What if I have a pair of antique ivory chopsticks bought a long, long time ago and I wish to sell them on eBay to a U.S. customer? That is legal, correct? So why punish all of us wishing to use eBay for legal purposes? Wait, I can get drugs, prostitutes and many other illegal goods and services, so shut the whole thing down? Stopping people from legitimate uses in order to halt illegal ones seems to be a slippery slope. I am actually all for stopping modern trade in modern ivory, but to ban something the law allows sounds like censorship to appease a cause.
  • Vintage items? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jockeys ( 753885 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:12AM (#23681597) Journal
    The article is not 100% clear on whether an item must be older than 100 years or just older than the 1989 ban to still legally be sold.

    Does anyone know?

    I collect old straight razors, and have been looking to sell an old piano (not 100 years old, though) so the issue affects me personally.
    • Re:Vintage items? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by beadfulthings ( 975812 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:36AM (#23681887) Journal
      The convention among people who might be interested in ivory is that objects more than 50 years old are OK. You would most likely be both legally and morally in the clear with an old piano and antique razors. I would guess that nobody has manufactured straight razors with ivory handles in the past 50 years, and celluloid keys for pianos have also prevailed in that time frame. The problem comes with people who lie about the age of the ivory they're selling. (Incidentally, for people who might be interested in the "look and feel" of ivory without the slaughter, I'd strongly suggest a look at "vegetable ivory," or tagua. It is a nut-kernel product that actually has the look, feel, grain, and strength of the real stuff. It can be worked, carved, and shaped just like the real thing, and it lasts just as long. It's entirely renewable, and its harvest and preparation provide employment for people in several economically distressed areas of the world. Any amateur carvers or makers of jewelry would do well to investigate its excellent properties.)
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mparker762 ( 315146 )
        I also collect and shave with straight razors, and there are definitely new razors being made with ivory scales, though the manufacturers all claim to be using mammoth ivory. I always assumed there were certificates and licenses that they had to have to use any sort of ivory, but maybe I'm wrong. Anybody know what German law is on ivory (the DoVo company that makes these is in Solingen Germany)?

        The bigger problem is that it can be tough to tell real ivory from ivory-looking celluloid just by visual inspec
        • Re:Vintage items? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by beadfulthings ( 975812 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:34PM (#23683579) Journal
          Hmm. I would never have guessed that, but I suppose the fifty-year rule could still apply. I buy a lot of beads, what with one thing and another, and I have a few observations. First, if everything billed as mammoth ivory were really mammoth ivory, the mammoths would never have become extinct. Second, I do not sell on Ebay and trust very little of what I buy there. I use it only for the very cheapest staple items, and I purchase trivial lots first when I'm checking out a seller. I'd never buy gemstone beads there, and there are precisely two sellers from whom I'll by vintage beads. So a healthy dose of skepticism can be your best friend. Finally, I collect vintage and new fountain pens. I guess that's similar to straight razors in some senses. While I've had a couple of stellar buys on Ebay, I regard that as "hobby money" and would not cry too hard if "stung." Still, I've found it's better to become involved with several groups of like-minded collectors. In smaller groups, it's easier to check out reputations, etc. For these purposes, something like Yahoo can turn out to be a good starting point; if you're collecting it, chances are there's a group of people into the same thing. That can serve as as a connecting point to other groups and to reputable buyers and sellers. (I suggest Yahoo because many collectors aren't especially technical and find it easiest to use.) It's also possible, within a good group, to gain reliable knowledge about things like Germany's ivory laws.
  • She admits that the company does not inspect ivory sold via its site to ensure that it was harvested prior to the CITES ban.

    How could they? The sellers can just lie and say it's pre-CITES. What' eBay supposed to do? Have everyone who wants to sell ivory get some sort of certificate and mail it to eBay before listing? Or eBay inspects everything? The only recourse is to ban all ivory sales.

  • by Rastignac ( 1014569 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:25AM (#23681753)
    ...Live together in perfect harmony.

    (let's sing together !)
  • ... that somebody's gonna try selling a few bars of ivory soap on Ebay and their auction will get deleted?
  • by RickRussellTX ( 755670 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:29AM (#23681799)
    (Disclaimer: I'm the OP.)

    The issue that bothers me, and it has nothing to do with elephants or ivory, is that eBay is merely a silent broker in these transactions. Could you realistically expect the relevant carriers of information to ban exchanges of ivory arranged over e-mail? Over postal mail? The telephone? At swap meets?

    eBay has built the smoothest, most liquid, easiest-to-use method of arranging private sales between geographically disparate private parties. That results in transaction volume that far exceeds the capability of any single person to review it (and read TFA and you'll see that even IFAW built its statistics by doing the most basic text searches -- they didn't actually try to verify anything).

    Organizations that like to tell people what to do and get themselves in the news, like the IFAW, hate such liquid markets. They want all transactions involving their particular interest to be monitored, filtered, verified, etc. Even though they are not willing to do it themselves.

    So if we monitor, filter, and verify transactions involving ivory, where do we stop? Do we ever stop? Does private enterprise go away and get replaced by "monitored and certified enterprise"?
    • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:16PM (#23683295) Homepage Journal
      Ebay's own list of prohibited and restricted items []:

      * Adult Material (see Mature Audiences)
      * Alcohol (see also Wine)
      * Animals and Wildlife Products - examples include live animals, mounted specimens, and ivory
      * Art
      * Artifacts - examples include Native American crafts, cave formations, and grave-related items
      * Catalytic Converters and Test Pipes
      * Cell Phone (Wireless) Service Contracts
      * Charity or Fundraising Listings
      * Clothing, Used
      * Coins
      * Contracts
      * Cosmetics, Used
      * Counterfeit Currency and Stamps
      * Credit Cards
      * Drugs & Drug Paraphernalia
      * Drugs, Describing Drugs or Drug-like Substances
      * Electronics Equipment - examples include cable TV de-scramblers, radar scanners, and traffic signal control devices
      * Electronic Surveillance Equipment - examples include wiretapping devices, and telephone bugging devices
      * Embargoed Goods and Prohibited Countries - examples include items from Cuba
      * Event Tickets
      * Firearms, Weapons and Knives - examples include pepper spray, replicas and stun guns
      * Food
      * Gift Cards
      * Government and Transit Documents
      * Government and Transit Uniforms
      * Government IDs and Licenses
      * Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Items - examples include batteries, fireworks, and Freon
      * Human Parts and Remains
      * Importation of Goods into the United States - examples include CDs that were intended only for distribution in a certain country
      * International Trading
      * Items Encouraging Illegal Activity - examples include an eBook describing how to create methamphetamine
      * Lockpicking Devices
      * Lottery Tickets
      * Mailing Lists and Personal Information
      * Manufacturers' Coupons
      * Mature Audiences
      * Medical Devices - examples include contact lenses, pacemakers, and surgical instruments
      * Multi-level Marketing, Pyramid and Matrix Programs
      * Offensive Material - examples include ethnically or racially offensive material and Nazi memorabilia
      * Pesticides
      * Plants (see Weeds and Seeds)
      * Police-Related Items
      * Political Memorabilia
      * Postage Meters
      * Prescription Drugs
      * Prohibited Services
      * Real Estate
      * Recalled Items
      * Slot Machines
      * Stamps
      * Stocks and Other Securities
      * Stolen Property and Property with Removed Serial Numbers
      * Surveillance Equipment
      * Teacher's Edition Textbooks
  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:31AM (#23681827)
    The International Fund for Animal Welfare is just trolling for attention. It's a tried and true technique. Attack a large and popular entity and charge them with the responsibility of handling your pet project to save the world.

    How about this "International Fund for Animal Welfare"? Instead of bitching real loud, how about you bid for the ivory, then tell the sellers that you will pick it up. Show up at the seller's door with law enforcement.

    Oh, I see. That doesn't get you free advertisement for your fund raising efforts.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      While you may not agree with the fact that animals should not be tortured, even though most people I know do agree that animals should not suffer unduly, for instance good hunter really do try to make the kill in one shot, there is a larger issue. Poaching.

      Most governments do not allow Elephants to be killed, or control the killing of elephants very carefully. The poachers who kill the elephants are criminals, just like the person who takes a deer off your land, that is if you own any land, or have the

      • Several decades back, one of the major animal control agencies in Africa investigated the issue of ivory poaching -- and to their own astonishment, discovered it was entirely a myth. Poaching simply wasn't happening.

        And they discovered that those huge "elephant graveyards" had another cause entirely.

        Elephants are grazers, NOT browsers. This means they eat, and are designed to eat, GRASSES. They are NOT designed to eat shoots and twigs, nor can they digest that much cellulose.

        The elephants found dead in thos
  • Unless it's an ivory gun or something, selling ivory that was yanked off of an elephant isn't going to kill anyone. If you want to help, target the people stealing tusks and selling new ivory, rather than those with a bit too much stuff in their attics.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by couchslug ( 175151 )
      If people genuinely wanted to reduce trade in endangered species they'd support devaluing the products by ranching and harvesting the species instead.

      Domestic cows aren't hunted to extinction.
  • And I was going to buy that ivory backscratcher...
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @11:45AM (#23682807)
    eBay needs a competitor who is willing to sell all the things eBay won't (lawfully acquired ivory, concert and sporting tickets of all types, legal second-hand copies of AutoCad, Scientology e-meters), along with everything else. Also one who takes payments other than PayPal. Someone like that ought to eventually eat eBay's lunch.
  • There are legitimate sales of ivory. Antiques dealers come to mind as the most obvious of them.

    Unfortunately, eBay will probably cave on this as they do with so many other things.
  • such postings may be inviolation of national and international law
    It's more than just a violation, it's an inviolation.
  • A while back I tried to auction off a vicuna fur coat on eBay (from an estate sale), not realizing that vicuna is considered an endangered species. eBay curtly informed me of this fact and summarily deleted the auction. So why do ivory auctions only get a warning?
  • First, the ivory ban is not a 100% ban. There is some legal trade in ivory. The legality of an ivory sale depends on the provenance of the ivory. I usually sympathize with environmentalists but it's just ridiculous to try to stop all ivory sales in order to prevent illegal sales.

    Second, there is serious question whether the ivory ban is a good policy. Legal, managed hunting [] is a promising alternative. It would be arrogant and stupid to try to tell African or South Asian governments they can't manage t

  • Elephant Farms (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @02:41PM (#23685369)
    Why don't some of the countries in the area just breed elephants on farms as a livestock animal? You get the ivory as a valuable export. You get the meat to feed your people. You pull elephants way back from the brink of extinction. And so on.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford