Pressure from activists and Labour MPs has forced the Government into another u-turn. In the face of massive public support for a full ban on the ivory trade the Government has said it will launch a consultation on banning the ivory trade in antiques in the UK. It has repeatedly promised this before, but caved into to pressure from the antiques lobby before the June election and removed the pledge from its manifesto.
This zombie Government has once again been forced into a u-turn by Labour backed by the support of the public. As with the contaminated blood scandal inquiry, trying to deal with the housing shortage and tackling tuition fees, the Tories are trying to play catch up with Labour’s manifesto which pledged a total ban on the ivory trade.
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. This is in response the hundreds of thousands of elephants that are poached for their ivory, over 144,000 elephants were killed between 2009 and 2016. This is an ongoing massacre of the largest land mammal in the world. Yet, the poachers need a method of sale, this is often on the black market but the UKs legal market in antique ivory is another option. The antiques market in the UK is riddled with ivory that has been artificially aged to look antique and proper testing is prohibitively expensive, making it exceedingly difficult to reveal fraud. The existence of the legal market in antiques also provides cover to the black market as traders can discourage further investigation by claiming that they only deal in legal antique ivory. We can only eliminated the black market in ivory by removing this cover.
This past weekend 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. I will, together with Labour colleagues and activists, keep up the pressure to ensure the Government follows up on this consultation with clear and comprehensive legislation. I have signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister to ask that she move to ban the domestic trade in ivory in the United Kingdom.
A ban would not be directed at pre-existing pieces in museums and family heirlooms of personal value, but at ending the legal commercial trade in ivory in the UK. The UK is the largest exporter of legal ivory in the world, servicing large markets in China and Hong Kong and providing a back door route to those markets now they have committed to closing their domestic ivory markets.
I hope that together we will be able to make this change a reality.