Passing Lewis Bill, Massachusetts State Senate Curbs Ivory and Rhino Horn Trade

BOSTON– The Massachusetts State Senate passed S. 2553, An Act relative to ivory and rhinoceros horn trafficking. The bill represents the Senate’s commitment to protecting the environment and conserving critically endangered species.

This bill aligns Massachusetts law with current federal law and seeks to curtail the sale and trafficking of ivory. It restricts the trade of most ivory and rhino horn products with exemptions for antiques that are legal under the federal Endangered Species Act; legally acquired products with a small amount (less than 200 grams) of ivory/horn; musical instruments; inheritance; and sale or donation to scientific and educational institutions.

“The Massachusetts Senate will not tolerate illegal ivory trading in the Commonwealth,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler. “Massachusetts residents believe in animal rights, and the violent and cruel practice of harvesting ivory runs contrary to our values. This legislation aligns the Commonwealth with existing federal laws which restrict the ivory trade and subsequently remove Massachusetts from the illicit ivory market.”

“Wildlife trafficking is a growing global crisis, and the ivory trade has more than doubled over the last decade” said Senator Jason M. Lewis, lead sponsor of the bill. “This legislation sends a clear message: the ivory market in Massachusetts cannot continue to contribute to the slaughter of African elephants, threatening the extinction of this amazing animal, or feed the profits of a brutal and illegal wildlife trade.”

A coalition of leading animal welfare organizations including the MSPCA-Angell, Zoo New England, Animal Welfare Institute, International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have joined together to encourage the passage of legislation as illegal poaching has decimated the populations of these animals, threatening them with extinction.

“All five remaining rhino species are endangered and African elephants could be gone from the wild in a few decades if the alarming rates of poaching do not subside,” said Laura Hagen, Deputy Director of Advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell. “We thank the Massachusetts Senate for recognizing the role our market plays in the killing, trafficking, and demand that fuel the poaching crisis across the globe, and for taking strong steps to ensure that the Commonwealth does not help drive these iconic species to extinction.”

Poaching is not only a wildlife conservation and animal welfare issue but also directly linked to transnational criminal syndicates. Furthermore, the scale of poaching today supplies a $7-10 billion wildlife trafficking enterprise that is intertwined with terrorism and government corruption.  These groups use poaching as a substantial source of funding for their brutal activities, which also threatens U.S. national security.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.