Proposal: Would extend new protections to certain animal species, many of them on endangered or threatened lists, with new penalties for selling them or products made from them.
Background: Trade in endangered animal parts, such as ivory, turtle shells or shark fins, is covered by international treaties and federal law makes it illegal to import or sell those animals or their parts. Washington state doesn’t prohibit most of those sales. This initiative would create state penalties of up to $4,000 for trafficking in those animals or products, with some exceptions for antiques, scientific purposes and musical instruments.
Supporting: Animal rights groups, zoos, environmental organizations and the Humane Society support the measure. They contend it will help keep some endangered species from going extinct, particularly elephants that are being targeted by poachers in Africa for their ivory. The Seattle and Tacoma ports are entry points for these products for the United States, which is a major market, and a new law would allow state authorities help stop that trade. Save Animals Facing Extinction, the campaign committee, has raised $2.5 million and spent about $1.3 million on signature-gathering. Its biggest donor is Paul Allen, Microsoft founder, who has contributed more than $1.5 million.
Opposing: Legal Ivory Rights Coalition says I-1401 won’t stop poaching in other countries, and trafficking in poached ivory is already a federal felony. Instead, it’s likely to target ivory that is legally crafted, sold and purchased in Washington. The antique exemption included in the proposal is a sham because it only applies to items at least 100 years-old with records to prove it. Anything acquired legally should stay legal. The coalition has set up a political committee, but had reported any contributions as of the end of September.