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Looking-Glass Research
Elephant Hair (and Porcupine Quill) Jewellery

VeggieBite ...
Pearls are not suitable jewellery for veg*ns. Both natural and cultivated pearls are harvested from mussels, oysters or scallops. All such clams (bivalve molluscs) are killed to retrieve the pearl. Even some imitation pearls can be made from coral or conch - both which are sea creatures.
See more "Things to Watch Out For"

How can you be sure that your elephant hair bracelet hasn't come from a poached elephant?

Continual reduction of the elephant population in both Africa and Asia show that rules to protect them are being broken or else detrimentally adjusted - threatening their survival even more than ever.
Poaching is rife, and the black market in ivory as well as other elephant derived products continues to thrive. Some areas in Africa claim that legal culling of "increasing" numbers of elephants is necessary to reduce the numbers. But areas originally allocated to protect the elephants are "shrinking" to accommodate the spread of human activities, giving the false impression that elephants are overpopulating. Ivory and other by-products are therefore being sourced from these culls ... as well as illegal poaching.
Elephant hair bracelet and elephant hair jewellery ads are often accompanied with reassurances based on CITES rules that elephant hair is "traditionally" gathered from areas where the animals rub their tails up against trees. Overall, the tradition surrounding the creation and wearing of gathered elephant hair jewellery is associated with love and harmony tuned to nature, and certainly not all elephant hair suppliers should be treated suspiciously as many may well be ethically genuine. But unfortunately, in such a grey market involving a commonly poached species, questions must be asked and far more evidential clarification provided before you buy such a product.
It is extremely hard to backtrack the origins of each individual elephant hair used to make jewellery unless you have seen for yourself exactly where it came from, so derivatives supposedly ethically harvested from an otherwise widely hunted animal means it becomes a close to impossible task to determine precisely whether a crime has or hasn't been committed.

Wildlife SOS, one of the leading rescue groups in India also monitoring elephant poaching, tell us that elephant hair could also come from a killed or poached elephant. "It is really very hard to make a distinction on whether the jewellery has been made out of hairs plucked out of a live or a dead elephant", say Wildlife SOS.
In India, illegally caught captive elephants are estimated to number more than 5000. These animals are subjected to terrible living and "working" conditions. Exploited for entertainment, celebrations, tourism and even advertising, hair from their tails used to make fashion accessories should also be considered an unethical product.

Jewellery and other trinkets made from the quills of porcupines can be found on the internet, and in parts of Africa trade is booming with the sales of ethnic "fair trade" porcupine products. Although the impression is given that porcupine quills are easily gathered when the animal releases them when under threat of attack, the reality is that these are rare finds and the numbers of porcupine quills needed to fulfil the demand for the crafts and trinket trade far exceeds that which may have come from ethically collecting them. This concludes that hundreds, if not thousands of porcupines are being hunted and killed for their quills. Porcupines are considered pests to African farmers and so exterminated. It's through this route that most quills are harvested from the dead animals, bundled together and sold on for profit to black market dealers, according to a report by IFAW. (see link below)

Conclusive proof of the source of ethically derived wild animal products (with high price tags on their heads) is almost impossible to monitor, and as we have suggested, the only way to ensure you have sourced an animal-friendly product is to obtain the original ingredient yourself; obviously an impractical exercise for most of us. So how much trust should we put in the ads providing elephant hair or porcupine jewellery or even the raw materials to create our own fashion statements?
At present, it cannot be officially stated that commercially available elephant hair is also sourced from poached or even legally culled elephants. This is because this ivory trade by-product can easily blend, unmonitored, into the black market, and then sold on to grey market wholesalers and subsequently to the suppliers/manufacturers. But obviously, even poached elephants, left lying where they have been killed for their tusks can be a source of the hair. Also, it's worth noting that corruption and therefore deception in much of Africa's social economy has reached epidemic proportions
So, unless you are a hundred percent sure that the source of any animal derived product is genuinely ethical, common-sense should prevail. If there's the slightest chance elephant hair is sourced from poached or exploited elephants, or porcupine quill jewellery and trinkets from a killed animal, should you buy it? Let your conscience decide.

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Unauthorized copying or distributing of this document is prohibited.

Useful Internal Links:
Looking-Glass Good Cause Support - Wildlife SOS

Useful External Links:
Wildlife SOS Elephant Project
Cites - Elephants
An IFAW Report on the Porcupine Quill Trade in South Africa

More things to watch out for when wearing or eating with a clear conscience:
VeggieGlobal's Things to Watch Out For ... including jewellery
Looking-Glass - Think About Fur
Looking-Glass - Palm Oil, The Ape Killer

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