Back in February of 2014, we let you know that due to concerns from our community, we were researching wet taxidermy in order to determine whether it fits within our values. Like you, we wanted to know whether there was anything inhumane about the process or whether it raised other ethical concerns. Since then, we consulted several different resources (including local and federal laws), and even spoke to taxidermy specialists in order to understand more about the process and sourcing, and learn how it differs from other forms of taxidermy.
The specialists we spoke to were passionate about their work and took pride in the fact that they gathered these specimens humanely and that their work was often used for educational purposes. They explained that these animals tended to either die from natural causes or were obtained through partnering with societies like Animal Care and Control. We also discovered that proper preservation requires several steps over many days (similar to dry taxidermy) and is analogous to other handmade items produced by Etsy sellers. It is also important to note that while there are many laws protecting animal rights and endangered species, there is nothing illegal about wet specimen preservation, provided these sellers are gathering their specimens humanely and complying with all applicable laws and regulations.
Art is incredibly subjective, and what is offensive to one is not necessarily offensive to others. At Etsy, we are always striving to strike the right balance between creative freedom and establishing a safe marketplace for members. We realize that although wet taxidermy may be ethical and legal, the images themselves can be disturbing or seem disrespectful to animal lovers. As a result, we have decided to continue to allow wet specimens to be listed, but we will be restricting access to these listings. This means that members who are looking for items related to "gopher," for example, will not be forced to sift through listings of gopher embryos or gophers preserved in jars.
We take animal rights issues very seriously and will not tolerate any abuse on our site. We have trained our internal policy enforcement team on the preservation process and have reached out to these sellers and asked that they disclose more information about their sourcing and process. While we are not in a position to always know how items (or specimens) are being collected and sold, we will remove any listings where there is evidence of abuse. We also provide members with tools to report any abuse or policy violations. Please see this article for more information: https://www.etsy.com/help/article/112.
Thank you again for bringing this issue to our attention. We appreciate the opportunity to engage in a productive and informative dialogue!
Policy Manager, Etsy