Today I find myself reading yet another article supposedly exploring the case for a legal trade in rhino horn. Over the last 3 years I have lost count of how many of these I have read, with titles such as: Would a legal trade in rhino horn save the rhino?
I decided to undertake an analysis of media articles that covered the trade topic, focusing on just the last 18 months. Of the 40 news articles I read, just one made mention of the user’s preference for a wild product over farmed horn. The reality is, a fundamental question appears to have been forgotten! How is the media missing this? On purpose?
This comes at an interesting time as journalists and commentators ask themselves:
- How did we get the USA election result soooo wrong?
- What did we miss in the lead up to Brexit?
Similarly, if they don’t start asking basic business questions, such as ‘Does the customer want a farmed rhino horn product?’ they could be posing the same type of question about the rhino’s demise, if an international trade becomes legal in the future. ‘How did we miss that a legal trade in rhino horn would drive wild rhinos to the brink of extinction?’.
Now, I am not saying that all these articles are pro-trade, some are not. Many cover some of the points against trade such as:
- Legalising trade will drive up demand given the ability to create marketing and advertising campaigns for the legal product.
- Legalising trade will activate latent demand from potential consumers who won’t buy an illegal product
- It will be easy to launder illegally sourced horn in to a legal market place, as this is extremely difficult to police.
Again, only one of these 40 articles asks the right question ‘Is the wealthy buyer of rhino horn, who is driving the current rhino killing spree, interested in a horn from a farmed, domesticated rhino?’ All Breaking The Brand’s research with these users says the answer to this question is ‘No’. During interviews with the primary users of rhino horn, Breaking The Brand found that rhino horn users do not see farmed horn as a substitute for wild horn.
Why is this the case? The horn of a wild rhino is considered to have more status and strength as it has come from an animal that has had to fight for its own survival in the wild and is more pure because its food source is wild. In the end we wrote about this in a September 2015 blog, Farmed Rhino Horn Not Seen As Substitute Product.
Before I write more, let me answer the first question people ask: ‘How will the buyers know that the horn comes from a farmed or wild rhino?’. The buyers in Viet Nam are asking for the tail and/or ears of the rhino to be presented with the horn, so they know it is very likely to have been killed in the wild.
Since 2013, Breaking The Brand has periodically contacted journalists about these findings. Though we may get a ‘This is an interesting point’ email response, we are still waiting to see something about this critical factor in the press.
Now in fairness to journalists, I must say that, in the main, they will go to large conservation bodies for information on this issue and many of these organisations if they are not pro-trade then they sit on the fence on trade issues, because they agree with the sustainable use model for wildlife.