Last week I had the good fortune of stumbling upon a pair of hand carved ivory cufflinks, I acquired them immediately. I am not 100% convinced they are real ivory, but at the price I paid I will get over it if they are faux or bone (however, upon trying the burning needle test they seemed to be the real thing). Which I figure that at a minimum they are bone. Either way, I will still wear them and they are still pretty badass. And let’s for the sake of this piece assume that they are real ivory.
But on to my point. I posted a photo on my Instagram the other day of the cufflinks and the response was mixed. Now, admittedly, the people speaking up against them are some of my friends who were just joking around. But, I am sure there are people out there who would say those things in a serious manner. Which brings up the question of should Ivory (or other questionably unethical/illegal materials) be worn?
First, as a bit of background; to my knowledge, the actual possession of ivory here in the United States is not illegal, so I am in the clear on that (perhaps my title for this piece is misleading?). And I believe the cufflinks have been around for a while, but I have no idea how to date them, there is a chance they were imported before there were any type of laws against the ivory trade. With that said, the trading, sales and importation of certain types of ivory is illegal. If in fact the ivory I have is real, I have no idea what animal it came from (whale, elephant etc) and obviously have no idea if it was harvested and imported legally or illegally. But still looming is the ethical debate.
Animal rights activists would likely snarl at my ivory cufflinks. The cufflinks support an illegal and unethical black market for ivory products, the activists would likely argue. They would then probably go on to say that innocent animals are slaughtered solely for their ivory. I don’t mean to put words in these people’s mouths but we all know how their script goes. And to an extent I agree with them. The slaughter of innocent animals just for the byproduct of their demise is less than ideal; especially when said slaughter is done in a way that does not minimize the suffering of the animal.
But then I think to myself, ‘wait, isn’t slaughtering animals (and pretty much anything else that we humans can get our hands on) for their resources been what humans have been doing for millennia?’ And to that the answer is unequivocally ‘yes.’ Perhaps an overused and simplistic argument, but a solid one in my eyes nonetheless. Yet I quest for further justification. Fortunately, that I seek, I am rewarded with.
When it comes down to it, these ivory cufflinks do nothing to influence the global demand for ivory (unless millions of you read this and decide you need a pair of ivory cufflinks for yourself, which much to my dismay only thousands will read this) and to purchase them second-hand from some collectibles shop does nothing to support any form of a black market for ivory. Furthermore, these cufflinks were likely imported at a time when ivory was less frowned upon and much more commonplace. And lastly, then there is always the possibility that the ivory used for these cufflinks was obtained, imported and sold both legally and ethically. And if that is the case you can damn well bet I will be telling any haters to go f*ck themselves, in less coarse words of course.
So what do I think? I think that I will continue wearing my ivory cufflinks until they break, which will hopefully never happen. If they have not broken or been misplaced when I expire many decades down the line they will pass down my line. For these cufflinks are here to stay. Haters be damned.
PS – feel free to sound off your thoughts in the comments section.