Breaking news: UK government announces proposal for full ban on UK ivory trade

    On 6 October the government announced a proposal for a full ban on ivory trade in the UK. To acknowledge this welcome news, we wrote a second letter to Theresa May, which we delivered to Downing St on 7 October  along with the open letter below that called for this action.

    The letters were delivered to No. 10 Downing Street by a group of conservationists – Will Travers (president of Born Free Foundation), Duncan McNair (CEO, Save the Asian Elephants), Rachael Hewish (IFAW), John Stephenson (CEO, Stop Ivory), Rory Young (founder, Chingeta Wildlife), and Joanne Ibbitson (Action for Elephants UK) – and has been signed by over 150 NGOs, conservationists, MPs, and other prominent individuals.

    Letter to Theresa May acknowledging proposal for a full ban

    7 October 2017

    Dear Prime Minister,

    We were thrilled to hear the news of the government’s proposal for a full ban on ivory trade in the UK. We’re adding this cover letter to acknowledge this momentous step and to thank you and your government for the commitment to ending the trade and to move forward with the consultation.

    The attached letter has been signed by around 200 NGOs, conservationists, MPs and others, and shows the strength of feeling behind the call for a ban. While every signatory will be welcoming DEFRA’s announcement, we know that there is still the consultation process ahead and that strong representations will be made by the antiques trade to try and water down the ban and maximise the exemptions. We hope the government will not weaken in its resolve and that the ‘ban will prohibit the sale of ivory items of all ages’, as stated by DEFRA.

    Once implemented, this ban will put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to end the trade in ivory that has fuelled the catastrophic decline of elephants, and will enable it to stand proud on the international stage and as the host of the 2018 conference on the illegal wildlife trade.

    We look forward with much hope and expectation that your government will follow through with a comprehensive ban on ivory sales in the UK as quickly as possible.

    Sincerely,

    Maria Mossman
    Action for Elephants UK

     

    Open letter written before the announcement

    7 October 2017

    Dear Prime Minister,

    Today marked the fourth annual Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, with people in over 100 cities across the world uniting in the call to save these endangered iconic species and to ban all trade in their tusks and horns. Unless we put a stop to such trade across the globe, the poaching of these animals will continue until they disappear altogether from the wild.

    Here in London we marked the day with a silent protest at Parliament Square, to remember the hundreds of thousands of elephants and rhinos killed by poachers, and to call on the government to introduce a ban on the domestic trade in ivory without delay.

    We, along with many members of the public, were bitterly disappointed to see the promise of an ivory ban dropped from your new manifesto for the first time in three elections. We hope you will now bring forward the legislation needed to implement a ban as a matter of urgency.

    An ivory trade ban has huge public support, with 95% of respondents polled in a YouGov survey (April 2017) saying they had no interest in buying antique ivory. Among MPs, 96% are in favour of an ivory ban (YouGov poll June 2017). Clearly it’s an enormously popular proposal. The only dissenting voice is the antiques trade.

    Ivory makes up only a tiny proportion of the antiques market in the UK. The current laws that attempt to regulate the legal trade are quite simply not fit for purpose. We’ve seen that ivory can be artificially aged, and without proper testing (which is prohibitively costly) anyone can claim an item they sell is antique. Evidence suggests that products manufactured from ‘new’ ivory are relatively easily passed off as antiques and widely traded within and from the UK. Any legal ivory trade provides a cover for illegal trade, with loopholes and weak enforcement of laws allowing ivory of more recent date to find its way to market stalls and antiques shops all over the country.

    The argument used by the antiques trade that an ivory ban would harm Britain’s cultural heritage is unfounded. Advocates for a ban do not call for the destruction or confiscation of any ivory items in existing collections or personal possession. We support exemptions in certain categories, such as allowing museums to obtain and display items of historical and cultural interest, and family heirlooms of personal value would not be affected either. However, the commercial trade must be ended if we are to truly play our part in the cessation of this terrible trade.

    The harm of the UK’s ivory trade extends far beyond these borders. As the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory, the UK is responsible for stimulating consumer demand globally, and especially in Hong Kong and China, two of the largest markets for legal and illegal ivory. Both countries have committed to closing their domestic ivory markets, and the US has also brought in a ban. The UK should show solidarity not only with these countries but with African countries calling for a global ban, and should honour the agreement it made at CITES CoP17 to close down all domestic ivory markets.

    The UK will be hosting the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in 2018, and if a domestic ivory ban is in place by then it will greatly enhance the UK’s credibility and stature as a global leader in fighting this trade.

    When we wrote to you last year we highlighted the loss of around 144,000 elephants killed over the previous 7 years, and the alarming declines in African elephant populations revealed in the Great Elephant Census. The sheer scale of such slaughter is difficult to comprehend. Elephant poaching in recent decades represents the most brutal and sustained wildlife massacre of our time. The wholesale and indiscriminate killing has shattered social structures and family bonds, erasing generations of accumulated knowledge and survival skills. If poaching continues at current rates, elephants will disappear completely across the African continent, possibly within our lifetimes.

    Prime Minister, we call on you to send a message to the world that the UK will not stand by while tens of thousands of elephants are slaughtered every year. We urge your government to take immediate steps to implement a ban on all commercial ivory trade in the UK, starting with the requisite consultation.

    We’re at a critical crossroads for elephants’ survival. Future generations deserve to share the world with these magnificent creatures. Prime Minister, this is your chance to take a firm stand that will be saluted at home and the world over, and to ensure the UK plays its part in protecting wild elephants for generations to come.

    Thank you for your attention and consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Maria Mossman
    Action for Elephants UK

    actionforelephants@gmail.com

     

    And the undersigned:

    Dr Jane Goodall DBE
    Founder the Jane Goodall Institute
    & UN Messenger of Peace

    Lord Hague of Richmond

    Duncan McNair
    CEO, Save The Asian Elephants

    Charlie Mayhew MBE
    Chief Executive Tusk Trust

    Virginia McKenna OBE
    Founder, Born Free Foundation

    Ingrid Newkirk
    Founder, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

    Dr Mark Pilgrim
    CEO, Chester Zoo

    Mary Rice
    Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency

    John Sauven
    Executive Director, Greenpeace UK

    Dame Daphne Sheldrick
    Founder & Chair, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

    John Stephenson
    CEO, Stop Ivory

    Will Travers OBE
    President, Born Free Foundation

    Rory Young
    Co-founder, Chengeta Wildlife

    Felix Olusola Abayomi
    Founder/CEO, Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative, Nigeria

    Rosemary Alles
    Co-founder, Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

    Damian Aspinall
    Chairman, The Aspinall Foundation

    Bill Bailey
    Actor and author

    Jonathan Bartley
    Joint Leader, UK Green Party

    Claire Bass
    Executive Director, Humane Society International UK

    Sport Beattie
    Founder and CEO, Game Rangers International

    Reinhard Behrend
    Founder and Director, Rainforest Rescue

    Prof David Bellamy
    Conservation Foundation

    Karen Botha
    CEO, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

    Scott Blais
    Co-founder, Global Sanctuary for Elephants

    Richard Bonham
    Director of Operations, Big Life Foundation

    Rob Brandford
    Director, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust iworry Campaign

    Anne Brummer
    CEO Save Me Trust

    Gordon Buchanan
    Wildlife Photographer and Conservationist

    Gaston Buh Wung
    GIS Coordinator, WWF Cameroon

    Nicky Campbell OBE
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    Jilly Cooper
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    Brian Cox
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    Jan Creamer
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    Dr Mahinda Deegalle
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    David Drew, MP (Lab)
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    Behaviour and Evolution Research Group, University of Stirling

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    Founder & Director, Olive Seed Foundation

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    Save Me Trust

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    Co-founder, National Park Rescue

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    Cornell University

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    Peter H Wrege
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