When Endangered Doesn’t Mean the Same Thing as Endangered

Okay. I’ve had a couple of people tell me about an online petition to have “endangered species” parts removed from Etsy. The petition cites vintage leopard fur from a coat that was listed by an antiques dealer on the site, and noted that while eBay has specific items they don’t allow, Etsy just says “no illegal animal parts”.

That’s all fine and good. I’m fine with Etsy defining that further, and for myself I both restrict myself to things I know are legal, and take the time to contact people I see selling vintage leopard fur or blue jay feathers in the US to let them know what they have isn’t legal. But then the petition writer goes on to talk about “endangered species” in a general way, and tries to say that any animal listed in CITES isn’t allowed. Additionally, the writer also states that any interstate trade of any endangered species parts is illegal.

The twofold problem here is that A) these are inaccurate interpretations of the laws in places, and B) there are different levels of “endangered”. Like CITES-listed animals, for example. CITES has three appendices. Appendix I includes animals like leopards, tigers, rhinos, and other extremely endangered animals. In the US it’s illegal to trade in CITES I animal parts, even pre-CITES ones, except for pre-CITES parts within your own state. However, Appendix II, which includes gray wolves, some species of zebra, and lions, allows for limited hunting and trade of these animals. And Appendix III involves animals threatened in one country, where other countries are asked to help protect these species.

Leopards and wolves are both “endangered species”. But what that entails for the trade in their parts is different in each case. Look at wolves in more detail. In Canada and Alaska, the populations are quite healthy, and a certain amount of hunting is allowed. In the lower 48 states, on the other hand, wolves are often still trying to gain a foothold. I don’t personally agree with the impending delisting of lower-48 wolves from the Endangered Species Act, because I don’t feel that states like Montana are going to do a good job of management, at least not beyond what makes ranchers and hunters happy. That’s why I only use hides and bones from Alaskan and Canadian wolves, and prefer to get them secondhand when possible.

If you think all wolves should be protected, that’s another argument for another time. My main point is that “endangered species” doesn’t automatically mean “can’t be hunted and their parts are illegal to buy or sell”. It’s a lot more complicated than that. You have to look at the individual species, and the various places it lives and how the populations are recovering.

Unfortunately, things like this petition just muddy the waters and spread false information. I admit that I haven’t updated it in over a year, so there are some broken links, but you can still get some idea of the nuances of legalities at my collection of animal parts laws-related links. That’s going to be more useful than one more misinformed petition screaming about “endangered species”.

3 thoughts on “When Endangered Doesn’t Mean the Same Thing as Endangered

  1. yeah, it is hard when legal terms don;t match what they sound like. without knowing the context of the laws and the actual situation, it is easy to think that something sounds good when it isn’t or vice versa. this stuff is always more complicated than people think. The less educated people are, the more absolute they can feel. Get more information and then you have to use critical thinking skills, check sources, who makes money off this,what year was the law passed and why, etc.
    Reminds me of how gathering rainwater is illegal in many states facing severe droughts. The laws were passed by rather socialist people so no one individual could gather all the rain and sell it to those who couldn’t. the water had to stay communal. 100 years later it goes against what those people would have wanted,but they made the law for their own time.
    animal parts and endangered species have a million more levels and interest groups and goals involved in the issue. the EPA may as well not exist for all the power they have. when i tell people that all migrating birds’ feathers are illegal to “own” they look freaked out. “but it’s from the yellow warbler the cat killed or from the bird feeder!” each species on that list has its own story of how it came to be on the list of “illegal parts.” the water story shows one weird history thing. with animals it’s a million of those stories, with various motives and time periods involved.
    Thing is, I’d rather a leopard print coat from 1960 be honored than go in a landfill. that law seems silly to me, as the animal is already dead. but i know why they have it. if we have an ivory letter opener from our grandparent,are we supposed to graft it on to an elephant now? none of this is as simple as it seems when you see the words “endangered species.”i am grateful you try to explain this. that cool cuff you made from mammoth that i was going to buy but i have a large wrist: where do extinct animals fall in this? or selling metal and stone whose mining screwed over endangered species? or wood of any kind in global warming?
    it’s always weird then the government the benefits from eco-destructive industrial growth has to regulate itself.

  2. What about recycling old hunting trophies/antique furs and other animal parts? Does Etsy and/or animal rights “slacktivists” have an issue with that as well? Antique animal parts are used a lot, and given that these were animals slain ages ago and owning/trading such parts doesn’t threaten current populations, doesn’t fall within/violate any of the current laws surrounding hunting and trade of endangered animal parts.

    I have pieces of antique (pre-ban) walrus and elephant ivory, and those items are perfectly legal to own and trade/sell. Such items constantly go up for auction at Christie’s and Sotheby’s as well as small auction houses in plain sight of the public and the law. However, if any of these ivories turned out to be made from the tusks of **POACHED African and Indian elephants** obtained after the ban, a lot of people would be slapped in irons. If the ivory in question was obtained from a wild boar or similar animal hunted with a proper license (and wild boar teeth are popularly and widely sold), there would be little to no issue. Additionally, mammoth ivory, while exceptionally expensive, is perfectly legal to own and trade since mammoths are extinct and the trade of their ivory threatens no living endangered species population. So, again, fuzzy language and technicalities and legal exceptions all over the place.

    I’m guessing people simply don’t care about the laws, don’t care enough to understand them, and just want to be self-righteously indignant about something for the sake of being self-righteously indignant. Such are the likes of “slacktivists.”

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