All these "sales" lately

Doug Yanega dyanega at
Tue Apr 28 20:16:38 EDT 1998

Time for a wee bit of venting, so pardon me. Is it just my imagination, or
are none of these people selling things here over the last few weeks
offering any assurances that their material was legally acquired? I know, I
know...we've been over the controversy of "stupid legislation", the
"impossibility" of extirpating leps by overcollecting, and the more serious
threat of habitat loss before, many times - but I still find it disturbing
that there isn't even an *attempt* by people to legitimize their commercial
endeavors, when something simple like saying "Yes, I had a permit to
collect this stuff" would be plenty. For all that some pro-collecting folks
clamor about how commercial collecting is harmless, it would still be nice
to see evidence that ANY of these vendors were making an attempt to live
within the law, instead of this queasy feeling that I'm subscribed to a
black market bulletin board (and people wonder what could motivate USFWS
folks to make statements like "All insect dealers are smugglers"). Surely,
ignoring the law in order to perpetuate the hobby can only lead to worse
consequences in the future.
        No, for the umpteenth time, I'm not saying the laws or
permit-obtaining processes are fine, or logical, or anything - in the final
analysis it *isn't* always the letter of the law that matters, but the
spirit. Basically, you wouldn't be too happy if someone started taking
fruit off a tree in your yard and selling it without giving you anything,
whether there was a law against it or NOT, or whether or not you had
intended to try to sell it yourself, right?? Is it ethical to sell insects
collected in other countries, or on public land, for purely personal
profit? The argument "Well, selling this stuff doesn't even cover a
fraction of what it cost me to collect it" is NOT valid - if it were, every
tourist that visited Rome should be entitled to take home chunks of the
Parthenon and Coliseum to help defray the cost of their travels. The bottom
line for me is that this is REALLY a matter of ethics, not legalities - but
it doesn't look like anyone else sees anything wrong with this sort of
        Worst of all, the demand for leps COULD be turned into a win-win
situation, if people would act ethically; if you could get a collecting
permit from any country FREE and instantly at Customs, with the ONLY
conditions being that nothing protected under CITES is allowed, and they
get half the money from any sale of collected material, wouldn't that be a
win-win situation? But if I were a country contemplating such a thing, I
wouldn't feel at all good about the prospects for compliance, given the way
leps are sold these days...would you? Yeah, yeah, I realize no country
would think it was worth the red tape and personnel to implement such a
plan (it might be if there was a central international clearinghouse
handling it, but that's another matter), but I'm just thinking out loud...


Doug Yanega    Depto. de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Univ. Fed. de Minas Gerais, Cx.P. 486, 30.161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG   BRAZIL
phone: 031-449-2579, fax: 031-441-5481  (from U.S., prefix 011-55)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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