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Thread: Ethical debate: Rehandling knives with ivory.

  1. #1

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    Ethical debate: Rehandling knives with ivory.

    Alright. I think this is the right section!

    I guess mentioning the word Wusthof probably makes me pretty unpopular here anyway either way, there are many skilled handle makers here!

    Would there be any moral objections, legal objection, or otherwise "you're a bad person for thinking this" around using recalled Ivory as a knife handle?

    So, suppose there's a stash of Ivory keycaps from a Steinway piano that one doesn't know what to do with - They absolutely cannot be sold, they have been sitting, yellowing in an attic for 10 years... Is there any way to make a "block" out of layered keycaps (Epoxy?) and fashion them into a handle? Ivory handled knives are nothing new, and there would be absolutely no other legal way to own an ivory handled knife unless someone were to make the handle.

    People make handles out of rams horn all of the time.

    This is all pie in the sky kind of stuff, but it brings up the interesting thought of potentially one of the most exclusive knife handles one could possibly own, at the expense of the life of an elephant that died over 100 years ago. We kill and eat other animals all day, every day...

    Or am I better off just leaving the idea as an idea and forgetting about it, that's probably maybe the ethical thing to do, I think. Hmm.

  2. #2
    Senior Member mikedtran's Avatar
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    On the layering them, I doubt the layering would be seamless so it would look different from a true single piece ivory handle. If you want the look of ivory I'm sure there are faux ivory products now that will look much more similar to actual ivory than the layered approach.

    Now if you wanted a knife that had an interesting history of steinway piano keys to layered ivory handle, I think there isn't really an ethical issue.

    EDIT: Strange spacing for some reason. Can't seem to fix it.

  3. #3
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    Just melt the ivory down and cast a new tusk out of it.

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    Senior Member Matus's Avatar
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    While I oppose the current situation of pre-ban and post-ban ivory as it does as much good as dividing a single swimming pool for pi$$ers and and non-pi$$ers, I would think that in the case of reclaimed thin sheets of ivory as you describe there is really no harm to be induced as you are not buying it or boosting the demand in some other way. That is just my personal opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matus View Post
    While I oppose the current situation of pre-ban and post-ban ivory as it does as much good as dividing a single swimming pool for pi$$ers and and non-pi$$ers, I would think that in the case of reclaimed thin sheets of ivory as you describe there is really no harm to be induced as you are not buying it or boosting the demand in some other way. That is just my personal opinion.
    Mine also, I don't think there's anything ethically wrong with using reclaimed materials. The animal had been long dead, and you using that literally does nothing to the industry today.

  6. #6
    Senior Member tjangula's Avatar
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    you could consider something such as mammoth ivory from long ago, fossil walrus ivory, etc. I agree that the thin sheets probably wouldn't work well, maybe as a spacer/liner, but it'd be so thin.

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    Senior Member zetieum's Avatar
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    The problem is not the pre-ban post-ban issue. If you rehandle a knife with a ivory handle, what does it mean for the future:
    - you know your knife was constructed out a dead elephant that was killed on only from that. I would not be happy about it.
    - you are promoting handcraft work from ivory. If you get artists to work on ivory it means me killed elephants.
    - The pic on a knife with a ivory handle would make people want to have the same: meaning more killed elephant.
    There are lot of countries who burm all the ivory they have to stop people making the association of ivory and luxe,

  8. #8

    ecchef's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllanP View Post
    Mine also, I don't think there's anything ethically wrong with using reclaimed materials. The animal had been long dead, and you using that literally does nothing to the industry today.
    After applying Occam's Razor, this is what is left. Destroy it and the animal really did die for nothing.
    I re-purpose everything I can. I save my dog's hair after a brushing so that one day I can cast some scales out of it in memoriam. Seriously.

    Zetieum, I think your reasoning is a bit flawed. I'm sure that there is some ivory extant that came from animals that died from natural causes and was harvested from the remains. Nothing unethical about that. Should that material be 'outlawed' ? I'll bet that anyone who re-handles a knife isn't going to post it all over the social media networks with a big "Hey, look what I got!" headline. The only people that would probably even be exposed to it would be fellow kinfe enthusiasts who already know the rules. And personally, if I eat a steak, I don't feel as though I had a hand in killing the steer.
    “Though I could not caution all, I still might warn a few; Don’t lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.” Robert Hunter

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    OK. No answer below. Don't read on if you need one. This is a difficult question and should stay one.


    @zetieum

    "promoting handcraft work from ivory" (neutral), "promoting handcraft work from illegally newly acquired ivory" (gathers asinine spheres by means of underpressure) , "promoting handcraft work from reclaimed, valued material" (positive) stand side by side here.

    "There are lot of countries who burm all the ivory they have to stop people making the association of ivory and luxe" - destroying artwork is never ever a good idea. At the same time, you might, depending on your local laws, make an object that you have to partially destroy to be able to ever transfer it.

    These doubts from someone who is probably amongst the most open to antispeciesist arguments* (but at the same time also to the "art trumps ethics" argument**) on this forum, and who is often annoyed that some excellent blades only come with a horn ferrule which I only grudgingly accept.

    *hardcore antispes argue that continued use of an animal part is still continued abuse, like use of an item made from illegally taken human bone would be. I will probably always understand that side and the other and refuse to judge.

    **which usually degrades into the art of tr### ethics as soon as art and commerce mix***. But an artifact that, IIUR, you could not legally sell is a brilliant counter proof.

    ***we see it all the time when really questionable subject matter gets copied from underground music scenes into arguably very commercial efforts.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ecchef View Post
    After applying Occam's Razor, this is what is left. Destroy it and the animal really did die for nothing.
    I re-purpose everything I can. I save my dog's hair after a brushing so that one day I can cast some scales out of it in memoriam. Seriously.

    Zetieum, I think your reasoning is a bit flawed. I'm sure that there is some ivory extant that came from animals that died from natural causes and was harvested from the remains. Nothing unethical about that. Should that material be 'outlawed' ? I'll bet that anyone who re-handles a knife isn't going to post it all over the social media networks with a big "Hey, look what I got!" headline. The only people that would probably even be exposed to it would be fellow kinfe enthusiasts who already know the rules. And personally, if I eat a steak, I don't feel as though I had a hand in killing the steer.
    Presumably you use the term "Occam's Razor" to lend some veneer of credibility to your arguments that follow. It appears that you don't understand the concept, however. Occam's razor is a tenet that posits that when choosing between alternative hypotheses of apparently equal merit, select the one with the fewest assumptions.

    You are simply stating an opinion: unless we continue to use ivory from elephants that died at some point in the past, they died in vain. The corollary is something like "If we use the ivory from an elephant killed for its tusks, at least it didn't die for nothing".

    In the next paragraph, you then assume that there is some reasonable possibility that the ivory in question, or some non-trivial proportion of extant ivory was harvested from pre-deceased animals, so there is no moral dilemma in using that ivory.

    It seems you dropped your razor.

    To suggest that you had no hand in the death of a steer, when you are consuming its flesh is nonsensical. The animals are slaughtered because there is demand for their meat. Your argument is no different than saying “If I buy an ivory carving, I don't feel as though I had a hand in killing the s̶t̶e̶e̶r̶ elephant". It is precisely this sort of moral abdication that has led to the current approach to the ivory trade.

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