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Billy Joel: Don’t Kill Elephants to Make Piano Keys

Billy Joel
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

As a professional piano player for most of his adult life, Billy Joel understands the appeal of ivory more than most — but as he made clear with a recent public statement supporting a ban on illegal ivory sales in the state of New York, he also understands that using it often carries an unconscionably high price.

Joel offered his support for the measure, introduced by New York governor Andrew Cuomo, in an open letter posted at his website. “I am a piano player. And I realize that ivory piano keys are preferred by some pianists,” reads the note in part. “But a preference for ivory keys does not justify the slaughter of 96 elephants every day. There are other materials which can be substituted for piano keys. But magnificent creatures like these can never be replaced. Music must never be used as an excuse to destroy an endangered species. Music should be a celebration of life — not an instrument of death.”

A report on the bill quotes state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as calling New York “a leading market in the world for illegal ivory sales” and adding, “Not only are we protecting elephants and rhinos from extinction but we are also cutting off the flow of cash to organized crime and terrorist organizations.”

Cuomo concurred, vowing, “The illegal ivory trade has no place in New York State, and we will not stand for individuals who violate the law by supporting it. This bill expands restrictions on the sale of ivory materials and toughens penalties against those who sell them, helping to curtail the rise of a dangerous and cruel industry that is endangering animals around the world.”

Next: Top 10 Billy Joel Songs

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