Global Trade of Polar Bear Parts: Is the UK Fiddling as Rome Burns?
Posted January 24, 2013
Over the weekend, several UK celebrities announced they want to ban the international trade of polar bear parts. Their letter was published in The Independent, a widely read national newspaper, accompanied by an article that outlined the plight of the polar bear. All good news for those of us who are campaigning to stop commercial hunts of polar bears by changing the species protection status at the world’s next convention of international trade for endangered species in March 2013.
But as I read the piece covering the celebrity support for a ban on polar bear trade, I abruptly stopped at an incredulous quote from one of the spokespeople for Richard Benyon. Benyon is the Environment Minister whose decision it is to support or oppose the ban. The official quote from the government office was that, given climate change's primacy as a threat to the world's polar bears, banning polar bear trade would be like "fiddling while Rome burns."
Since the UK spokespeople are so fond of metaphors, let me try one.
Not addressing the commercial trade of polar bears as the world watches their habitat literally melt away because of climate change is like refusing to do anything about rape in a refugee camp. Although there might be larger, global forces, such as drought or strife, that drive people from their homes into a refugee tent, would it be sound policy to ignore the immediate threats to those in the camp until the drought ended? Until the military coup died down?
If you buy the UK’s response to stopping commercial hunts of polar bears for profitable trade in their skins and body parts, then the answer to my questions above would be yes. Let rape ravage the camp. We need to solve the drought first. We need to remove military occupation first. While I’m certainly not saying that the larger issues are important, I am saying that it is irresponsible to stand aside during times of strife and allow others to exploit extreme conditions.
We have a silver bullet that can stop the second biggest threat to the world’s last remaining polar bears dead in its tracks. Ban trade now. Alleviate the pressure point on polar bears that could push them over the edge; then we can throw all our weight into curbing climate change.
By not supporting a ban on trade now, well, I fear that it’s actually the UK government that might be fiddling while Rome burns.
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