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Barbara O'Brien

Elephants for Buddhas?

By October 19, 2012

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African elephants are being slaughtered at an alarming rate to satisfy demand for ivory. In central Africa especially the elephant population is shrinking rapidly. Most of the African ivory eventually is sold in China and Thailand.

I was sorry to learn that much of this ivory is being carved into Buddhas.

Recently National Geographic reported (see video) that the poaching business is largely driven by a demand for religious art. Ivory buddhas are especially popular in Thailand. Ironically, ivory buddhas are thought to honor both the elephants and the Buddha.

It is legal in Thailand to sell the tips of tusks clipped from live domestic elephants. Legal and illegal ivory are mixed together to evade detection. It would be nice to believe that the monks and artisans carving Buddhist art don't understand that elephants are dying to supply the ivory. However, the National Geographic reporter, posing as a smuggler, was told by a monk that if he ran into trouble with authorities he could just say the ivory was for the temple.

At the very least, please never buy anything made of ivory unless you are absolutely certain it is an antique.

October 20, 2012 at 1:44 am
(1) buddhanonymous says:

Sounds like education is needed, starting with the heads of monasteries. If the roshi understands how much suffering is caused by the ivory Buddhas, that understanding will get passed along. End the demand, end the killing.

October 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm
(2) Mila says:

Barbara – fyi the National Geographic link isn’t working.

I’ve seen photos of elephants killed for their ivory — decapitated, or their tusked ripped out. Very sad, indeed — and totally agree that boycotting these products is a step in the right direction ….

October 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm
(3) Barbara O'Brien says:

Mila — I couldn’t find exactly the same article again, but here is a video from the National Geographic that is worth watching — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6PDNQsemb0&feature=share

October 26, 2012 at 3:09 am
(4) bimal says:

it must be stopped immediately, Buddha told not to kill any live being
for any purpose.

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