IFAW Needs Basic Economics Lesson

In order to protest the sale of ivory, the International Fund for Animal Welfare publicly destroyed a giant elephant tusk constructed from various pieces of ivory in London’s Trafalgar Square. But it seems a bit confused about its motivation.

According to IFAW’s wildlife campaigner, Jenny Hawley,

Elephants are intelligent and sociable animals, capable of enormous suffering. Many populations are also at risk of extinction. People must remember that every ivory item they buy increases the demand, which is met by poacher. IFAW believes ivory belongs to elephants. The only way to stop elephants being killed for their tusks is to make ivory worthless.

Where did Hawley get her economics degree from? By publicly destroying ivory, the IFAW sends a clear signal that the amount of ivory available for sale, legally or illegally, has just declined. And what happens when the quantity of a commodity for sale declines (all other things being equal) — its value increases.

Hawley continues,

By destroying its own ‘stockpile’, IFAW is calling for all countries with ivory stockpiles to put them beyond use for ever. If we want to safeguard the future of elephants, then all international discussions must focus on proper long-term conservation measures rather than trade.

But, again, destroying such stockpiles would simply send the price of ivory skyrocketing which would make elephants an even more lucrative target for poachers.

Protecting elephants from poaching by strangling the supply of ivory will work just as effectively as stopping illegal drugs by attempting to strangle the supply has.


IFAW destroys giant tusk of unwanted ivory in its campaign to protect elephants. Press Release, International Fund for Animal Welfare, April 12, 2005.

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