To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

To whom it may concern:
I wholeheartedly support the ivory sales ban bill pending in New York State.
I am a piano player. And I realize that ivory piano keys are preferred by some pianists.
But a preference for ivory keys does not justify the slaughter of 96 elephants every day.
There are other materials which can be substituted for piano keys.
But magnificent creatures like these can never be replaced.
Music must never be used as an excuse to destroy an endangered species.
Music should be a celebration of life - not an instrument of death.
Billy Joel

http://www.longisland.com/news/06-17-14/bill-to-fight-illegal-ivory-and-rhinoceros-horn-trade.html

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Re: To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

I've been waiting patiently for your to correct your blatantly incorrect statements about ivory and pianos.
Your statement, "But a preference for ivory keys does not justify the slaughter of 96 elephants every day"
is completely wrong. Please do yourself a favor and correct this. NO PIANO COMPANY IN THE WORLD IS USING IVORY. No elephants are being killed for piano keys. The restriction and monitoring of the movement of international and interstate sales of old pianos will not save one elephant. It will only reduce the resources that could go toward catching and prosecuting those who illegally import ivory.

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Re: To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

Dear Billy Joel,

The piano industry has been erroneously blamed for this ivory. The fact is that the American piano companies, one of which YOU are an artist for, have stopped using ivory keytops in the 1940s or 1950s. Europe followed suit shortly after. There are no new manufacturer pianos made with ivoy keytops. They do in fact use plastics and synthetic materials to simulate the feel of ivory, but NO actual ivory is used.

I too am in favor of the ban. However the piano industry is not to blame. As a piano technician and fan of yours I am appauled that you don't know better.

Stop the spreading of blame on pianos. You are correct music is used for creativity and enjoyment and life.

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Re: To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

Contrary to your assertions, a blanket ban on the sale of all ivory in the US will do little or nothing to deter wildlife trafficking, especially considering that the proposed national guidelines still permit the importation of two African elephant tropies per hunter per year. If the goal is to prevent the killing of elephants, a blanket sport-hunting ban would be far more effective than criminalising the possession and sale of pre-CITES artifacts.

I would also point out several logical fallacies:

"Jenny may argue that a once-off sale of her mother’s ivory will do little to fuel elephant poaching. After all what are a few family heirlooms in the big scheme? But then one could argue for a once-off sale of a big stash of cocaine to pay the medical bills of an ailing relative. In the big scheme it’s not going to make a difference to the global drug trade, but somehow most of us would think it wrong. "

Yes, 'most of us would think it wrong' because a) most of us would agree that cocaine is dangerous and harmful and b) the sale and possession of cocaine is ALREADY illegal. Of course 'most of us balk at the sale of drugs, but not ivory.' The ivory ban would punish millions of Americans who own ivory jewelry, musical instruments, or other heirlooms for political capital, rather than any practical conservation gain.

"It begs the question, are all sentient animals – including humans - morally equal? In the general sense, they are. Each individual life has an intrinsic worth in that they are valuable to themselves; and if one deploys this logic, no individual can be morally more superior than another."

To argue that 'each...life has an intrinsic worth in that they are valuable to themselves' is essentially the post-modern argument against any sort of universal 'truth'. The 'moral choices' of society then become those with the loudest and most strident voices: sport-hunters who claim the (untalked about) 'exemption' to continue to kill elephants and zealous conservationists who imagine that criminalising the possession or sale of old ivory will in some way 'undo' the choices of past centuries.

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Banning the sale of Ivory: a moral dilemma

Kudos to Billy Joel. I'm a South African commentator on conservation, especially elephants - this is my response to the blanket US ban on ivory sales, a discussion that began in Forbes Magazine. It's not about where and when the ivory came from, or who owns it, it's about elephants....check it out.

'A moral dilemma has emerged following an online debate to an article in Forbes Magazine discussing the US ban on all trade in ivory. The main article by Doug Bandow is palpably against the ban of legal trade, and, somewhat inadequately, the author provides various aesthetic and sentimental reasons for his stance. The article garnered some immediate comments from those, this writer included, who know elephants a little better. We challenged Bandow’s views by arguing that the ban would go a long way to stemming the rampant slaughter of illegal trade and consequently lauded the US government for its bold and decisive act.

Then there was a comment by Jenny. She is not a talented Forbes correspondent nor an expert on elephants or conservation but simply someone whose parents had bought ‘as an investment’ around US$ 200,000 of carved ivory pieces in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Her father has since passed away and the ailing mother, now suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and ‘declining fast’, is struggling to pay her medical bills. Selling the family heirlooms, says Jenny, will alleviate most of the pressure and provide urgent treatment. That is no longer possible. Because she can’t sell it, the ivory she owns is as valuable as the cheap plastic trinkets found in Chinese 1-dollar stores.

What makes Jenny’s predicament morally compelling is that she has unwittingly provided a far stronger case against the US government’s ban than the precocious Bandow. Her quandary is a particularly powerful one in that she is essentially asking us to make a basic choice - the life of a human over the lives of other animals. This resonates deeply with most human beings. The vast majority of our species would agree that when it comes to the life of a human versus the life of an animal, human value must take precedence. It’s the morally correct choice. The US government ought to lift the ban on compassionate grounds to allow Jenny’s mother to sell her ivory, which these days would be considerably more than what her and her husband originally paid for them.

But what about our compassion for the elephants? There are some that question the validity of humans having more value than other animals – and logically they are correct. What makes humans ethically more superior than other animals? Sure, we can reason, drive motorcars and write clever pieces in Forbes but we are also guilty of genocide, torturing and kidnapping children and have dropped nuclear bombs on innocent civilians. Even if that logic doesn’t wash with the obedient citizens of the world, what is the value of an ailing old lady compared to the continued existence of an entire species?

Jenny may argue that a once off sale of her mother’s ivory will do little to fuel elephant poaching. After all what are a few family heirlooms in the big scheme? But then one could argue for a once-off sale of a big stash of cocaine to pay the medical bills of an ailing relative. In the big scheme it’s not going to make a difference to the global drug trade, but somehow most of us would think it wrong. Again, the human-animal disparity crops ups, and again it makes no logical sense why most of us baulk at selling drugs but not ivory.

It begs the question, are all sentient animals – including humans - morally equal? In the general sense, they are. Each individual life has an intrinsic worth in that they are valuable to themselves; and if one deploys this logic, no individual can be morally more superior than another.

However, ethics is not a science, it doesn’t necessarily follow logic. While intrinsic worth of individuals may be accepted, its when placed in relation to others or in different contexts that the equality of sentient beings becomes confused. Animal rights lawyer Gary Francione posed this interesting question: if your beloved pet dog and your child were in a burning house and you could only save one, which would you choose? For most of us it’s a no brainer - your child, of course. Not because it’s a human versus an animal but because it’s an individual sentimentally or compassionately closer. Similarly if I had to choose between my beloved pet dog and a convicted serial child murderer, I would choose my dog. Jenny is choosing her mother over the elephants. She is exercising an accepted moral choice.

Is the US government, therefore, wrong in denying Jenny her moral right to save her mother? Unfortunately for Jenny, societies have different moral codes to individuals. Morality in the collective realm is far more complex. In many cases governments need to sacrifice the moral requirements of an individual to safeguard the general good of the population. An individual might find it necessary to steal in order to pay for their medical bills, but the general will would counter this by asking ‘what if we were all allowed to steal to pay for our medical bills?’ There would be widespread chaos and consequently, stealing in any form is illegal by universal law. Morally, the government cannot make exceptions because if you allow one, you must allow all.

The universal law approach is precisely the path the US government has taken by banning the trade in ivory. If we all traded in ivory, we wipe out the elephants, and as with the law against stealing, there can be no exceptions.'

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Re: To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

It's hard to know what to say in response to such a prodigous level of stupid!
Not to mention the clear ignorance of fact and lack of thought with which such support has been given to this bill.
A bill which is sure to kill far more elephants than it will ever save by making an already illegal trade more lucrative.
It's nieve to think that people already dealing in illegal ivory will now stop just because of these new laws. They will just charge more for a "harder to get" comodity.
As has already been stated by other posters, and contrary to the scaremongering statements of many conservation groups, ivory has not been used in the manufacture of piano keys for many decades.
The only people that will be hit by this ban will be the ordinary law abiding people who collect, restore and use antique musical instruments, which are sometimes several hundred years old. The people who make their living coaxing these long forgotten pieces of our musical heritage back to life. In the process, keeping skills alive that are long forgotten elsewhere or who have spent their lives piecing together techniques from a few written lines here and there in obscure texts.

This will NOT stop the poachers, it will just increase demand for illegal ivory by the middlemen who will charge more for it and so on, down the line. This is probably already being applauded as a great victory by the only other people to benefit from this ban, the conservation groups that make their living by fundraising for the protection of elephants. And since the largest market for illegal ivory is in China and the most direct route for it is across the indian ocean, how does banning ivory in the US figure in blocking the ivory trade from Africa to China? When you blanket ban anything, be it alcohol, drugs, ivory, you don't stop the demand, you just make those supplying it very, very rich! Remember the roaring sucess that was the Volstead Act?

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Re: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

While your statement makes very good publicity, it's important to realise that new ivory has NOT been used in the manufacture of pianos (or violin bows, or other musical instruments) in the US for many years. The 'slaughter of 96 elephants every day' has nothing to do with a 'preference for ivory keys.'

The National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking guidelines would ban the sale of all ivory, including musical instruments made long before the CITES treaty was even conceived, but would continue to allow African elephants to be sport-hunted (apparently limiting the number of elephants that a single hunter can kill to two per year is considered progress).

The focus of the recently passed law in NJ and the proposed law in NY does NOTHING to discourage illegal poaching or even the legal slaughter of African or Asian elephants. It only criminalises the transportation or resale of musical instruments and similar items which were NOT made with illegally obtained ivory. No new ivory is used in the making or repair of musical instruments and has not been for some time.

Please don't allow yourself to be used as a spokesperson without considering all the facts.

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Re: To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

Thank you so much for taking this stance. Our two young founders are also trying to get the state of GA to do the same thing. Olivia and Carter started their nonprofit called One More Generation (OMG) in an effort to save endangered species and clean up our environment for at least One More Generation... and beyond.

Check out what they are doing to raise awareness about the rhino poaching: http://itsyourplanet.org/ and let us know what you think of their work.

Thanks again from all of us at OMG Eye-wink

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Re: To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

The Frederick Collection of Historical Grand Pianos in Massachusetts is the result of forty years' acquisition of mostly European pianos by important makers, as close as possible to those that were owned or played in concert by the major composers, c.1790-1928. Of nearly thirty pianos in the Collection, two dozen are in concert-playing condition, and are used in a regular concert series approaching its 29th year. Pianists with solid international reputations say they learn more about the repertoire from these instruments than from anything written or taught by scholars; playing these pianos changes their approach to playing the modern piano. Some of these pianos have cow bone key-covering; some have ebony naturals and ivory sharps; a few have plastic key coverings, installed before they joined the Collection. Most have their old ivory key coverings. The Frederick Collection is reputed to be one of the best "musicians' collections" in the world. Shall we strip off and destroy the ivory keys of an 1828 Conrad Graf piano of Vienna, with almost all its original parts? Or a Muzio Clementi grand of 1805? How will that save the lives of elephants today?

This is just one example of what the new ivory ban seems to require.

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Re: To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

No new pianos have had ivory keys in over 50 years. They are all plastic. The American piano industry abandoned ivory years before the ban. Steinway stopped using ivory in 1956. The only pianos with ivory keys are old. Piano manufacturers and owners are in no way responsible for illegal ivory trade.

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Re: To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

Piano manufacturers have not used ivory in over 50 years. The American piano industry abandoned ivory in the 1950's. Piano owners are not in any way to blame for the illegal ivory trade. The only pianos in the US that have ivory keys are old instruments. No new pianos have ivory and have not in years.

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Re: To Whom It May Concern: Bill To Fight Illegal Ivory

Billy you are truly one of the best in the business but are elephants endangered? If so I am in complete agreement. But in order to be consistent then I would think you would donate your pianos that use ivory to a charity for the elephants protection. Also I would refuse to play one again. Otherwise your good intentions will be like so many others who believe in do as I say not do as I do.

With great respect for your incredible talent and body of work.

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