Bones, skulls and taxidermy.
Ethics mean different things for different people. This is how I at Dark Echoes work:
All bones, skulls and other outdoor remains are locally and sustainably sourced. I use our own forest finds, animals deceased by natural death or animals victim to roadkill. Sporadically I get remains from trusted taxidermists that I got to know through the years. I sometimes get them donated, however I always ask how the bones and remains are obtained. If I'm not sure, I do not accept them. I don't accept remains from traps, dump sites used by hunters, culls and shoots. I strictly don't deal with poachers, (trophy) hunters, cullers, game keepers or anything who supports these practices.
Keep in mind that bones and other remains can often be slightly damaged. After cleaning bones, they can keep their natural patina and we sometimes show this in my work. Major flaws are always described in listings. Minor flaws are part of an animal once lived in the wild and are also mentioned.
Butterflies and insects
I source all insects, butterflies and moths from reputable entomologists and breeders that I trust from the UK, Europe and US.
By creating a market for them, global conservatories and aviaries help sustain natural habitats, contributing to the prevention of habitat indestruction and deforestation as tropical forests are declining at an alarming and quick rate. The butterflies and insects I use are hand reared and are from conservatories that help maintain the balance of natural habitat. Part will be released into the wild, part stays in the conservatory and die of natural causes. The insects and butterflies raised are free from predators and are collected once they pass away. No insect I use is ever caught in the wild, in perfect condition or killed for my work and are collected responsibly from these sources. I rehydrate and pin and mount the butterflies and insects myself.
Every now and then I work with human bones. These bones are late Victorian and are over 100 years old.
Bones over 100 years old are legal to own, buy and sell in this country. If younger than 100 years, a license is needed. The bones I work with are over 100 years and from the late Victorian era. They are part from old medical science skeletons. I treat them with the utmost respect and try to make something unique out of the bones. Note that I never ever go out and dig up graves, so you know! (believe me, I've had the question a few times!) I am always happy to answer any more questions.
Here in the UK, the Human Tissue Act (2004) states that it is an offence to engage in commercial dealings of material for the purposes of transplantation. This covers soft tissues and does not specifically refer to bones. However, the latest relevant update on the HTA website (https://www.hta.gov.uk/policies/sale-bodies-body-parts-and-tissue) reads...
"The HT Act is, however, silent on the sale of bodies, body parts or tissue for other purposes and such sales are therefore outside the remit of the HTA" with the exception that the sale of items of human tissue are not "visible to the public whilst on sale".
"A key principle on which the HT Act is based is that all bodies, body parts or tissue should be treated with respect and dignity. The HTA considers that the need to maintain dignity and respect is paramount in the handling of all human bodies and tissue."
Roughly translated... keeping human remains in a private collection is totally fine.
Bats - bones - skeletons - mummified
A lot of people ask me if I sell bats. The answer is a big no.
In me being naive a few years ago I have made the mistake selling 2 bat skulls which sold straight away....but not long after I realised it was at the cost to the bat and down the road of further researching I found out how these bats are sourced. Heartbreaking and disgusting.
Some bats are culled, very little, but not humanely. It would be more expensive so it is done in the cheapest way possible and this means no single shot to the head, just agonizing death on the cards. Most of these bats on the market were not culled, but were killed. These lovely creatures were taken for the sole purpose of being in a final resting place in the shape of a shadow box or dome tomb.
"But my bat came from Europe"
Are you sure? Because most bats come from South America, Asia and other countries and it is mostly illegal to have a bat skeleton from Europe unless you have a license.
One man once mentioned a cave in Asia that once was the home to hundreds of thousands of bats, and is now completely empty.
If you see a bat advertised as "ethically sourced taxidermy" , it is not sustainably sourced, and if a bat died of natural causes it would be destroyed quickly by insects or eaten by a scavenger. There are a very few exceptions, and you are going to have to pay a lot more for a bat which is legit, and it will obtain a licence for legal trade. Some of these rare bats are the ones that have diseases which make them go blind and stop them from being able to hunt and they die. There are taxidermists who collect these guys and this is when they come into the market.
If a seller offers you an "ethically sourced" taxidermy bat and has several in stock, you can make your own choice of course, but as long as they are offered, this terrible taxidermy bat trade won't stop. Ever.
There is no such thing as a bat breeding farm. Preserved bats, mummified bats, taxidermy bats..... they are killed and presented to you for your enjoyment, and that is the reason why I absolutely do not sell them.