Letters to the Editor
Hypocritical to lecture Thais on ivory
The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is pressuring Thailand to ban the domestic ivory trade. They scold us and make us look like a bad boy. But come to think of it, wasn't it white men who killed tens of thousands of elephants for their tusks?
In the mid-1800s, elephant tusks were used to make piano keys. Since then, it has been estimated that about 30,000 African elephants were killed to supply tusks to piano-makers in Europe and America. Thin strips of ivory were carved from the giant tusks, matched for their delicate colouring, mounted on solid wood, and then cut apart to form individual keys.
But after 1950, when the African elephant population was nearly wiped out, piano manufacturers substituted ivory with synthetic material resembling ivory. Note that it wasn't conscience that made white men stop using ivory for piano keys; it was because the supply had run out.
Next time, if you listen to Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 or Beethoven's No. 4 in G Major, close your eyes and imagine a warehouse full of thousands of tusks and mountains of blood-soaked elephant carcasses.