Friday, February 26, 2010

Should The Sale Of Tiger Parts Be Legal?

This week in one of my classes we read a chapter titled ""Bye, Bye Bison" from the book The Economics of Public Issues. The chapter discussed what happens when no one owns animals. They get over hunted or over fished.

The Wall Street Journal had an article last week called China's Tiger Farms Spark a Standoff: Economists Propose Legalizing Sale of Some Animal Parts, as Poachers and Shrinking Habitat Thin Ranks in the Wild. Here are some key exerpts:
"To curtail demand for poached animals, the economists suggest legalizing the sale of bones from some farm-bred tigers. In China, the bones are in high demand for use in traditional medicines such as rheumatism cures."

"Such sales have been illegal in China since 1993, when Beijing joined a ban on international trade in tiger products. Before then, many tiger farms fed a demand for bones; after the ban, poachers and habitat destruction thinned China's ranks of wild tigers down to a few dozen."

""Farming works if the price of the poached product falls sufficiently so that poaching is no longer profitable," he said. " That's why you don't go hunting in the jungle for wild chickens—because it's cheaper to go to the supermarket. In essence. You've got to get wild tiger bone cheaper than the farmed bone—a big ask."

It costs at least $2,000 to raise a tiger bred in captivity—and $200 or less to kill a tiger, the World Bank estimates.

Mr. van Kooten disputes those figures, saying that poaching is much more costly and that farms could achieve economies of scale to decrease the price of raising a tiger."
The idea is that if tiger parts can be sold legally, the supply would increase, lowering the price. Then poachers would have no need to kill tigers in the wild. Also, I think some poachers might be willing to start doing things legally themselves.

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