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Billy Joel Says Elephants Are Worth More Than Ivory Piano Keys

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Billy Joel, who is often referred to as the quintessential ‘Piano Man’, spoke out against the slaughter of elephants and rhinos for their ivory. Joel said that he supports a proposed New York bill that would ban the illegal ivory trade.

In a press release on Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced an agreement with legislative leaders on a bill to restrict the market for ivory articles and rhinoceros horns. “The illegal ivory trade has no place in New York State, and we will not stand for individuals who violate the law by supporting it,” Governor Cuomo said. “This bill expands restrictions on the sale of ivory materials and toughens penalties against those who sell them, helping to curtail the rise of a dangerous and cruel industry that is endangering animals around the world.”

In support of the bill that aims to ban illegal ivory trade in New York, Joel posted this message on his website:

“To whom it may concern:
I wholeheartedly support the ivory sales ban bill pending in New York State.
I am a piano player. And I realize that ivory piano keys are preferred by some pianists.
But a preference for ivory keys does not justify the slaughter of 96 elephants every day.
There are other materials which can be substituted for piano keys.
But magnificent creatures like these can never be replaced.
Music must never be used as an excuse to destroy an endangered species.
Music should be a celebration of life – not an instrument of death.
Billy Joel”

Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey D. Klein said, “By cracking down on the illegal trade of ivory and rhinoceros horns we not only reinforce our efforts to protect rare animals and wildlife populations around the world but curb this growing criminal activity throughout New York State.”

“Unfortunately, New York is a leading market in the world for illegal ivory sales and so it is important that we strengthen our laws to more effectively crack down on this nefarious activity,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “Not only are we protecting elephants and rhinos from extinction but we are also cutting off the flow of cash to organized crime and terrorist organizations. At an Assembly public hearing earlier this year, Botswana and Tanzania officials testified that international wildlife trafficking is linked to trans-national organized crime and such terrorist groups as Al Shabaab, a terrorist cell of Al Qaeda, that has been linked to the Kenya Mall massacre.”

Senator Andrew Lanza said, “The illegal ivory trade is an international crisis in which 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered in 2012 alone. Poachers who are supporting terrorism and the drug trade are acting with impunity helped in part by receptive markets in New York City and Asia. We can make a difference right here with this legislation which will lead to higher conviction rates and tough criminal sentences. I thank Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Sweeney, Senator Skelos, Senator Klein and all the conservationists and advocates who have given voice to this horror.”

“This legislation will protect elephants, which are being lost to the world at an outrageous rate of 96 elephants a day, all to satisfy the vanity ivory market and to finance terrorism,” said Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney. “The enactment of this bill recognizes the significant impact our state can have on clamping down on illegal ivory sales in order to save elephants from the ruthless poaching operations run by terrorists and organized crime.”

Although ivory is most often associated with jewelry, it is also used for many other products such as billiard balls, Scottish bagpipes, buttons, flatware handles, furniture inlays, and of course piano keys, to name just a few.

If a piano icon like Billy Joel is willing to substitute ivory for other materials used in an instrument from which he makes his livelihood, because he wants to see an end to the slaughter of elephants and rhinos, then the rest of us should be able to find more animal-friendly materials for our ornaments and pastimes too.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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