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Chinese medicine scam

Fake rhino horn, tiger bone, etc
  [vote for,

Many species are being driven towards exctinction by illegal poaching, and all over Asia and Australasia a key market is the Traditional Chinese Medicine market. Tiger bone and rhino horn can fetch thousands of dollars per kilo, leading to a very lucrative black market.

The current trend is to try to crack down on this trade with CITES legislation, but difficulties in enforcement leave the trade alive and active.

So, I suggest that we flood the market with fakes. Ground cow bone is indistinguishable from tiger bone, ground fused human hair (sweep it off the floor of the hairdresser) very similar to rhino horn. So, we don't need to make a profit, and we don't have the high costs of getting real material, let's invest our conservation dollars in setting up hundreds of manufacturers of TCM products using fake ingredients. Those selling the real stuff will find themselves squeezed out of the market, and the rhinos and tigers (and frogs, and turtle, and insects, and bears, &c.) can live happily ever after.

swyves, Nov 23 2006


       The sentiment is laudable, but the logic is flawed. The markets are flooded with fake designer goods, and it has no effect on sales or demand for the genuine articles.
xenzag, Nov 23 2006

       I was hoping people wouldn't be able to tell the difference. As this is all black market and long smuggling routes are involved, provenance must be somewhat murky.
swyves, Nov 23 2006

       The better the fakes, the more the motivation to authenticate and verify the originals..... but [+] anyway.
xenzag, Nov 23 2006

       I like it - but I have to think that any halfwit in a position to do so would be doing exactly that. I imagine that buying such items must be like buying drugs - personal connections etc. Except if one buys some bad drugs, it becomes clear pretty quick. I am not sure how persons purchasing such items would determine that they were not being sold the real deal.   

       Unless the real items actually work.
bungston, Nov 23 2006

       Well, if we flood the market with knockoffs, and assuming that the real articles don't work better than the fakes, the only solution is to authenticate the smuggled products.   

       Such authentication is not likely to happen, since these items are illegal, and authentication would just be more evidence against the criminals.   

       I think I'll see what that little plus button up there does.
ye_river_xiv, Nov 24 2006

       I agree with xenzag and bungston. I think that if you're paying top dollar for tiger bone you'd be a fool not to have some kind of verification method; e.g. buying in a substantially unprocessed form (so you can see the characteristic growth patterns). Then to be really sure you could use DNA testing, spectral analysis etc.   

       A more realistic solution (in this week's NewScientist) is to farm the endangered animals.
xaviergisz, Nov 24 2006

       ...Or just execute the poachers and distributors.
Custardguts, Nov 24 2006

       Somehow, selling fakes to the Chinese is like selling ice cubes to Eskimos. But I like the poetic justice. +
Ling, Nov 24 2006


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