The US Fish and Wildlife Service demolished more than a ton of confiscated ivory products in Times Square last Friday. Read the press release here. Pay special attention to the closing paragraph.
Fish and Wildlife acknowledges that their crush porn was symbolic. The trade will continue as long as there are willing buyers and sellers, willing producers and consumers. If you're an elephant, you still have cause for concern.
So why do it then? Why publicly destroy seized inventory? Surely the DEA knows that when it torches bushels of weed or when totalitarians ignite piles of books or when ISIS sledgehammers heretical sculpture, that these ritual acts of purification and destruction are almost entirely symbolic, right? The notion that someone was on the cusp of buying a set of ivory combs and then changed their minds after witnessing some public spectacle is beyond ludicrous, particularly when weighed against the predicted production increases due to the inevitable price response.
If you want to slay elephants for their tusks, this is the way to do it.
Contrast this story, a biotech firm will be 3D printing ersatz black rhino horn, genetically identical to the free-range equivalent. This will tank prices, making poaching unprofitable. It's economically literate, even if it lacks the same crowd-pleasing spectacle as a handgun turn-in or a library bonfire.
It is precisely because the trade in ivory is so revolting that ill-conceived publicity stunts need to be avoided. It's a pity that no one at Fish and Wildlife is in any danger of losing their job over this reckless tomfoolery.