In a last-ditch attempt to derail the UK ban on ivory, which was passed into law in 2018 but not yet implemented, the antiques trade has called for a Judicial Review against the government to challenge the new Ivory Act.
Once again this small but influential lobby representing the antiques trade has marshalled all its resources to fight the ban on the domestic ivory trade. This time it has created a new company of dealers and collectors called the Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures Ltd (FACT) to bring its lawsuit against the government.
They are flying in the face of huge public and political support for the ban. Let’s remember that the government’s consultation on the ivory ban received a phenomenal 71,238 responses, with the vast majority of the public in favour of the most stringent ban possible, and that Parliament approved the ivory bill with an overwhelming cross-party majority. Petitions from NGOs calling for a ban on ivory trade got more than 100,000 signatures.
Our own letters to the prime minister calling for a ban garnered hundreds of signatures from NGOs, conservationists and many others (links to letters). This degree of support for an ivory ban sent the message loud and clear that saving elephants is what matters to the British public, not a tainted trade in ivory ornaments. But to this day, the antiques dealers haven’t got this message.
What are the trade’s arguments? They are challenging the legality of the Act on two fronts: that it’s incompatible with EU law, which already governs trade in ivory; and that its impact on the value of private property would amount to ‘severe interference with fundamental rights and freedom’. With the second argument they claim they would be deprived of their ‘human right’ to enjoy their personal property if they were banned from selling ivory.
Unfortunately, elephants don’t have any rights that are recognised in law – not even the right to not be killed and have their tusks hacked off – but they have a moral right to life and to survival. This attempt by a group of traders to stop the Ivory Act just so they can sell their ivory pieces must be seen for the mercenary, gross and shameless act that it is, and we must speak out against it.
It’s taken years of unrelenting pressure, campaigning and public activism to achieve an ivory ban in the UK, and a very robust one at that. We can be very proud of this law and the message it sends about the need to shut down ivory markets everywhere so demand for ivory will finally end.
On October 16th a single judge will make a momentous decision. We hope he or she will see off the challenge by FACT, which is nothing more than a last, desperate attempt to protect the trade’s commercial interests. The FACT is, no cultural treasures will be harmed by the Ivory Act. The exemptions of the Act ensure that such objects are protected. The Act does not expropriate anyone’s ivory, nor prevent the enjoyment of artistic or religious objects, nor prevent individuals from handing items on as an inheritance, or indeed from donating important objects and collections to museums, where they can be more widely appreciated.
Event supporters include Animal Defenders International, Born Free Foundation, Four Paws, Humane Society International, IFAW, Jane Goodall Institute, Olsen Trust, Stop Ivory, Two Million Tusks and Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation, along with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Stanley Johnson. Bella Lack is also supporting the event and is expected to attend.
Read Jane Dalton in The Independent on the High Court challenge: Antique dealers fight to reverse UK’s new ban on ivory trade in defence of ‘freedom to enjoy personal property’
Karen Botha in The Independent: Stop trading antiques and stop poaching
Rosemary Bennett in The Times: Antique dealers attempt to reverse ivory trading ban