Target: His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, Leader of the Catholic Church
Goal: Put an end to the international ivory trade by showing support for an international ban
When it comes to many Catholic religious totems, there is a devil in the details. Those details just happen to be ivory; and because of the brutal and corrupt methods employed to collect it, the number of elephant deaths in recent years has skyrocketed. According to a new report, to be released soon by National Geographic, an estimated 25,000 elephants were slaughtered for their tusks in 2011 alone. While no doubt a large amount, it is still considered a conservative estimate as the tracking of the trade is difficult at best.
Much of this trade is fueled by the religiously devout who want to honor their gods with this precious material. Ivory carvings of saints, crucifixes, and the baby Jesus are kept sacred by the majority of Roman Catholics in the largely Catholic country of the Philippines. Approximately 75 million Roman Catholics live in the Philippines making it the third largest Catholic population in the world. It is with a large consumer base, such as this, that the longevity of the elephant species is now being severely threatened.
Despite a Roman Catholic catechism that declares that, “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly,” the Vatican has not gotten behind the conservation of these animals. Already, the Vatican has taken a progressive initiative by stating its commitment to eradicate issues like drug trafficking, terrorism, and crime; but when it comes to the international ivory trade, no such progress has been made.
Already, a treaty exists that focuses on eliminating the international ivory trade—drafted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an agency that determines policy on the international wildlife trade—but the Vatican, as of now, has not signed on to it. In order to protect future populations of elephants, the Catholic Church must denounce the illegal ivory trade and commit to this international ban.
Every year, thousands of wild elephants are being hunted and killed for their priceless tusks. Conservative estimates show that at least 25,000 elephants were killed in 2011 alone, and that number is expected to rise in much of the same way as it has been over the past decade. And behind these rising numbers is the global market for carved religious artifacts.
In largely Catholic countries like the Philippines, ivory is not only abundant but it is constantly in high demand. Everything from saints, crucifixes, and the baby Jesus are carved into ivory and bought and sold to the religiously devout. Ivory, it seems, is almost as important as the word itself. But as dealers and consumers continue to participate in the illegal trade, elephants continue to suffer.
With the Vatican the leading voice of the Catholic Church, you have the great opportunity to act on behalf of these animals and denounce the international trade of ivory. Having already showed commitment to eliminating drug trafficking, terrorism, and crime around the world—the Catholic Church must encourage animal rights and commit to putting an end to the international ivory trade. Please show your support by signing the treaty to ban the international ivory trade, drafted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
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Photo Credit: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service