Washington Voters Criminalize Law Abiding Citizens
On Election Day, Washington State voters approved Initiative 1401, a provision that penalizes law abiding citizens rather than attack poachers, smugglers, and black-market profiteers of illicit ivory and animal products.
Initiative 1401 makes a felon out of anyone in the state who is selling, trading, or giving away a number of ordinary items such as pianos with ivory keys, antique firearms with ivory inlays, hunting trophies, or chess sets with ivory pieces! Sadly, despite turning ordinary citizens into criminals, Initiative 1401 – backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Save Animals Facing Extinction (SAFE) – will do nothing to stop poaching in Africa.
This initiative is not just about ivory – the provision applies to any species of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, pangolin, marine turtle, shark, or ray that is listed on CITES Appendix I or II or IUCN’s Red List as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. As a result, the law affects many species and subspecies, even if they are already protected by CITES quotas!
Initiative 1401 simply wasn’t necessary. The U.S. has a well-developed market for trading antiques, art, musical instruments, firearms, knives, scrimshaw and countless other items that incorporate ivory. CITES has not identified any significant flow of illegal ivory into the U.S. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has also reported that there is no significant trade of illegal ivory into this country, and that the continued sale of lawfully owned ivory in the United States will not increase poaching. Collectively, the Seattle-Tacoma seaport and airport and Washington and Idaho’s northern border with Canada averaged only about three to four interceptions of elephant ivory jewelry or carvings or an improperly imported, sport-hunted elephant trophy per year.
Unfortunately, Initiative 1401’s uselessness will not prevent it from being offered as a model for other similar measures. Anti-hunting groups such as HSUS will try and use Washington as an example to pass ballot initiatives throughout the country. Hunting is the target. Hunters have seen anti-hunting groups attempt to use ballot initiatives to end black bear hunting, dove hunting, and mountain lion hunting. Hunting is under an unprecedented attack and this is not the last initiative hunters will see attempting to penalize legal owners of wildlife products. In fact, the HSUS has launched a ballot initiative campaign in Oregon, for 2016 to prohibit the sale or purchase, or possession with intent to sell or buy legally acquired ivory and animal products from a number of different species.
Sound scientific principles, not the hyperbole and emotionalism of anti-hunters, should provide the foundation for the management of wildlife and habitat. Although anti-hunters may think that it is preferable to influence the public with emotionally based campaigns, what they achieve in the name of conservation often fails to be in the best interest of wildlife.