At Home with Marni Jameson: Decorating with feathers can put endangered birds in peril

By Marni Jameson Published: March 22, 2014
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Several months ago I wrote a column about feathers that got readers squawking. I wrote about how they were trending up in fashion and decor. Bird lovers cried, “Fowl!”

And rightly so.

Feathers are beautiful. When they are rendered as a motif in, say, wallpaper, fabric or tableware, they can be exquisite. But when actual feathers from endangered flocks are used in home decor, that is a bird of different color. I found out. That use, my fine-feathered friends, can be at the peril of already threatened birds.

Don’t do it.

When I wrote that column last fall, I had not thought that through. But my dear readers raised their concerns and, as a result, my consciousness.

My consciousness was raised even more last week when I had an eye-opening discussion with Craig Hoover, chief of wildlife trade and conservation for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency that protects nature. Hoover told me about the impact certain home decor choices have on our planet and its wildlife.

Ladies and gentlemen: After you read the rest of this column, you will not be the same. I’m not.

After talking to Hoover, I felt like a dirt clod in the spring meadow of life. Now, don’t worry. I have not overnight turned into an off-the-grid, tree-hugging, PETA activist vegan with a Greenpeace sticker on her solar-powered Smart car. But I do care about the future of this green spinning sphere upon which we all depend entirely.

So I was all ears when Hoover shared his mission, which is simply to prevent consumers from unwittingly buying home furnishings that harm the wild, a cause for which he needs noisemakers like me — well, he didn’t call me a noisemaker, exactly — to get the word out.

“Most people aren’t thinking about where an item comes from and what impact their purchasing decision has on animal and plant life around the world when they buy home furnishings,” Hoover said.

So true. They’re thinking: “That would look awesome on my coffee table. How much is it?”

“I want to get them to make the connection between the beautiful product in the store and the impact that removing it from the wild has on plants or animals,” he said.

As in, if consumers would stop buying ivory, hunters would stop killing elephants just for their tusks.

“Anything that creates a demand for products made from endangered species is bad news for that species,” he said.

While I knew about ivory, Hoover shared some other products used in home decor that he — and by extension, I — want you to think about before you buy:

•Ivory. Often beautifully carved into ornate balls or figures, ivory comes at a steep price to wildlife, usually to elephants, which are killed solely for their tusks. Some ivory also comes from walrus tusks and hippo teeth, Hoover said. Unfortunately, demand for ivory has risen sharply. Last year 35,000 African elephants were killed for their tusks, and more than 60 percent of our forest elephants over the last decade. As a result, Asian elephants are endangered, and African elephants as threatened, he said.

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