The Tao of Saigon Horn:Part Two

But Ellis says it is “not the use of animal parts per se that is the problem – it is the slaughter of animals for what might be specious applications, or worse, the slaughter of critically endangered species”.


The solution he offers is: “Even those who have used animal parts for thousands of years – should recognize that the animals that provide these pharmaceuticals, whether useful or not, are becoming extinct.”


So to protect white rhinos, black rhinos, Javan rhinos and Indian rhinos the ‘fingernail campaign’ becomes irrelevant.


He also says, “It is critically important to develop substitutes for animal substances.” And he gives several examples of where this is happening already.


What might also be useful to slow demand is to question the Chinese belief in priorism and look at Sigerist’s suggestion back in 1949 of making other medicines such as science offers more universally accessible.


A 19th Century expert on China , Franke said on priorism: “It is dangerous to move the ideals of a people into a great past for it interferes with man’s normal urge to expect and to work for improvement in the future.”


As TCM is based on philosophy then the promise of longevity attained by living according to the Tao could also have a positive impact.


Considering rhino horn is toted as a hangover cure and a status symbol, the Nei Ching describes the Tao:


“In ancient times those people who understood the Tao [The way of self cultivation] patterned themselves on the Yin and Yang [the two principles in nature] and they lived in harmony with the arts of divination…


“There was temperance in eating and drinking. Their hours of rising and retiring were regular and not disorderly and wild, by these means the ancients kept their bodies united with their souls…


“They felt happy under any condition. To them it did not matter whether a man held a high or low position in life…”



Conservation groups have switched away from the “fingernail campaign” and aim to reduce demand with a three pronged campaign to raise awareness of the inhumanity of the trade and the fragility of the species, the need for coordinated international law making and enforcement and the meaninglessness and indulgent nature of rhino horn use.


The UNTV and CITES premier of their film “Rhinos under Threat” in June 2012, graphically covers the inhumanity and fragile beauty of the South African rhinos that are the victims.


TRAFFIC put out the The South Africa—Viet Nam Rhino Horn Trade Nexus: A deadly combination of institutional lapses, corrupt wildlife industry professionals and Asian crime syndicates. It identifies Vietnam as the main market.


The year just gone has been big on making pledges against wildtrade.


TRAFFIC also wants environmental courts to be established by ASEAN nations including to bolster environmental jurisprudence.


The WWF anti-wildlife trafficking arm pushed for the new courts at a ASEAN 2nd Roundtable on Environmental Law and Enforcement in Malaysia in early December.


Tougher customs measures which are described here and new Memorandums of Understanding between South Africa and Vietnam which are described in this TRAFFIC article will add give a sharper edge to policing measures acting as a deterrent and reducing demand.


Statements by APEC, the US Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton and discussions at the level of the UN have put wildtrade and rhino horn in the global spotlight.


Conservation groups have steered away from naming authentic TCM practice as the main source of demand for the horn.


TRAFFIC instead says that the exotic animal part is being mainly used as an expensive middle class indulgence.


“The surge in rhino horn demand from Viet Nam has nothing to do with meeting traditional medicine needs, it’s to supply a recreational drug to party goers or to con dying cancer patients out of their cash for a miracle rhino horn cure that will never happen,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC rhino expert, and a co-author of the new report.


The report says: “Ultimately the only long-term solution to stamping out rhino poaching in Africa and Asia lies in curbing demand for horn.


“Four main user groups have been identified in Viet Nam: the principal one being those who believe in rhino horn’s detoxification properties, especially following excessive intake of alcohol, rich food and “the good life”. Affluent users routinely grind up rhino horn and mix the powder with water or alcohol as a hangover-cure and general health tonic.

“Horn is also used as a supposed cancer cure by terminally ill patients, who are sometimes deliberately targeted by rhino horn “touts” as part of a cynical marketing ploy to increase the profitability of the illicit trade.


While Milliken is right that party goers on rhino horn are not living according to the precepts of TCM and the Tao, there is still some tenuous connection to TCM as the party goers are surely acting according to some twisted version of the Tao to prevent illness.