The elephant never forgets, and the animal rights activist never learns.
The very term ‘animal rights’ is meaningless to the point of being idiotic. Rights exist in a dialectical union with duties. For example, my right to the state’s protection is contingent on my duty of allegiance to the state.
Since animals have no duties, they can have no rights. That doesn’t mean we should treat them with gratuitous cruelty. In fact, Britain has had laws against that sort of thing for two centuries, long before ‘animal rights’ were first bandied about.
However, killing animals for the benefit of man doesn’t ipso facto constitute cruelty. We shouldn’t forget that animals were created to serve people, which is explicitly stated in the only valid moral code of our civilisation (the part of it that’s called Genesis).
That moral code has many different postulates, and mankind does a rather patchy job following them. Yet, while flouting the true moral laws, some people insist on concocting false ones. Such as those based on their mawkish devotion to the lives of wild beasts.
This is strictly a characteristic of the urban middle class. People who live surrounded by life’s fauna are never sentimental about it. Peasants, farmers, hunters, fishermen, African or Australian natives invariably treat animals in a purely utilitarian manner.
This brings me to Carrie Johnson and Hillary Clinton, who are consumed with a passion for the plight of elephants. Since those animals are killed for their ivory tusks, Carrie and Hillary proceed from the inferable assumption that banning the ivory trade will make elephants immortal.
Poor Bill Clinton’s wife got the ball rolling by demanding that the Japanese government end ivory imports “as the world watches the Tokyo Olympics”. And poor Boris Johnson’s wife lent her unequivocal support to that demand, even though it dangerously teeters on the edge of a diplomatic incident.
The two women punch at different weights. First, the wife of an American president has an official status, and the wife of a British PM has not. We have no First Lady.
Second, Mrs Clinton in her own right held senior positions both in the legislative and executive branches of the US government. The only political position Mrs Johnson has ever had, other than the harridan henpecking her hubby-wubby, is that of a PR flak for the Conservative Party.
Hence she’d be well-advised to reserve her all-abiding love of all living things strictly for home consumption, leaving the sovereign governments of Britain’s allies alone. Wishful thinking, that. Once people predisposed to fanaticism get a bee in their bonnet, they devote their whole lives to nurturing that insect.
But do let’s take a dispassionate look at the face value of the two ladies’ argument. Several countries, regrettably including Britain, have issued a total or partial ban on the ivory trade, supposedly to prevent the elephants from becoming extinct.
However, allowing their population to increase uncontrollably may lead to just such an end. Yes, elephants and other species must be protected from irresponsible poaching. But that doesn’t mean they have to be sanctified.
My beloved Richmond Park has several herds of deer roaming around for the delectation of visitors. Yet every year the herds are selectively culled to maintain their viability – this without the Carries of this world raising a hue and cry.
In that sense, a memory of elephants is no different from a herd of dear. Some culling is essential for their survival.
However, even in the absence of those rifle-toting cullers, elephants do die a natural death. When dead, they have no further use for their tusks, which can, however, provide a good service for humans.
This obvious thought never crosses the ecofanatics’ minds. That’s why a few years ago they publicly burned stacks of tusks, which was a stupid gesture. Those tusks had already been harvested, and their previous possessors were already dead. Provided that no more precious elephant lives were being lost, what was the harm in selling that ivory?
The usual argument one hears is that ivory has only a decorative value, and it’s morally wrong that those gorgeous creatures should die for rich women to pin cameos to their chests (class rancour is always implicit). Since one doesn’t often hear similar indignation over alligator shoes or ostrich handbags, the logic of that argument appears muddled. But fanaticism isn’t about logic.
Anyway, ivory has a perfectly functional and extremely important use. It’s the only material really suitable for the making of piano keys. Any pianist (such as the one I’m married to) will tell you that plastic substitutes don’t work nearly as well.
Not to cut too fine a point, a pianist’s hands sweat during a performance. Since ivory is a naturally porous material, it absorbs the moisture, preventing the fingers from sliding. Not so with plastic. The surface of plastic keys is smooth and slippery, which makes a big difference for musicians.
I maintain that the real good of pianists is more vital to our culture than the mythical good of elephants – and infinitely more so than the good of hairbrained animal righters.
On a personal note, has Carrie ever even seen an elephant this side of the Regent’s Park Zoo? Then again, it’s conceivable that she has never attended a piano recital either.