China given OK to buy ivory. Poachers rejoice

Once again, commerce wins over common sense. In a move that can only be characterized as a failure of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the United Nations today agreed to let China buy elephant tusks in a one-off sale of African ivory stockpiles.

This despite the fact that China is already the world's top market for illegal ivory.

This despite the fact that a recent survey from the International Fund for Animal Welfare found that 75.7% of people polled in China "would willingly violate the control system in order to obtain ivory at a cheaper price."

This despite the fact that IFAW, TRAFFIC, the WWF and other conservation groups all warn that allowing China to legally buy ivory will create a smoke-screen for further black-market trade and increase poaching.

This despite the fact that 23,000 elephants were poached in 2006 -- a number in excess of the annual number of elephants poached before the ivory trade ban went into effect in 1989.

This despite the fact that 19 African nations recently asked CITES not to allow China to buy ivory.

This despite the fact that many of the tusks sold come from culled elephants, a practice which has been described as "cruel, unethical and a scientifically unsound."

But apparently the facts don't matter sometimes. Only money does.