The UK’s domestic ivory trade
As the largest exporter of ivory in the EU, as well as allowing a thriving legal ivory trade at home, the UK plays a major role in feeding consumer demand for ivory. This makes the UK a complicit player in the ongoing poaching that is driving elephants to extinction in the wild.
The government pledged in two election manifestos – in 2010 and 2015 – to bring about the complete closure of the UK’s domestic ivory market. As of 2017 it had still failed to honour this pledge. Since 2010, over 200,000 elephants have been poached for their ivory.
Action for Elephants UK has been in the forefront of campaigns to pressure the government to keep its pledge. We have carried out demonstrations at Westminster, DEFRA and auction houses (which are a chief outlet for ivory sales), written open letters to two prime ministers and DEFRA, and held marches that took the message to the door of No. 10. But the government is not listening.
Despite the clear condemnation by all NGOs and conservationists of the government’s failure to act on closing the domestic ivory trade, and despite the fact that 85% of the British population want a total ban, and despite its commitment to support African countries in their efforts to end poaching, this government is instead prioritizing the commercial interests of a tiny number of British antiques dealers. These traders are the obstacle to a full ban, and are lobbying for the sale of antique (defined as pre-1947) ivory to continue.
In early 2017, the government announced it would hold a consultation process on what amounts to a partial ban – the discussion will only address possible ways to regulate more tightly the trade in antique ivory. This flies in the face of abundant evidence that as long as any trade in ivory is allowed to continue, illegal ivory will enter the market as well. And if demand continues, the poaching of African elephants will continue – until it’s too late, and the species will pass the point of recovery, beyond which lies EXTINCTION. All for the sake of useless ivory ornaments and the greed of a very small number of merchants.
In advance of the consultation, we have issued a position statement on the UK ivory trade.
AFE letters to the government:
September 2016: Letter to Prime Minister Theresa May from Action for Elephants UK and 125 signatories, calling on the government to ban ivory trade in the UK.
The Guardian article on this letter and the issues surrounding poaching and ivory bans.
January 2017: Follow-up letter to Theresa May
The Guardian article on this letter and a UK ban