I have called on the Government to implement a total ban on ivory products in the UK. This follows the recent announcement by the UK Government to undertake a consultation on ivory products.
The Government state that the consultation has been set in place so that they can seek views on their proposal to introduce a total ban on UK sales of ivory that could contribute either directly or indirectly to the continued poaching of elephants. They are asking for evidence on the effect the proposed ban will have. This includes its effect on elephant conservation, the natural environment and businesses, as well as its economic and cultural effect.
The ban will be subject to some strictly defined exemptions. They want evidence about the scope of the proposed exemptions and how they could operate. They also want evidence on how the ban should be enforced and the sanctions that should be applied.
It is estimated that between 1979 and 1989, over 50% of Africa’s elephants were poached for their ivory. While international trade in ivory has been banned since 1989, concerns have been raised about the legal ivory markets which continue in some countries, including the UK.
The UK already has a ban on trade in raw tusks, or ‘unworked’ ivory, of any age. In September 2016, the Government announced plans for a ban on sales of modern day ivory in the UK – this would cover the sale of items containing ivory dated between 1947 and the present day.
I am is concerned that the Government’s proposals may be too limited because they do not include older ivory products. There are concerns that illegal modern ivory can be falsely claimed to be old ivory as only carbon dating can provide the necessary identification. The charity Action for Elephants UK has said that the existence of a legal ivory trade serves as a cover for illegal sales of ivory.
The consultation is open to everyone and closes on the 29th December 2017. Those wishing to contribute can do so via: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/international/banning-uk-sales-of-ivory/
The loss of elephant populations around the world is deeply concerning. I was initially pleased when the Government announced that it was undertaking a review into a total ban on ivory. However, since that announcement they have allowed their tough stance to be watered down.
I used DEFRA questions to press the Secretary of State to implement a total ban of ivory. We need to protect endangered species and a total ban is the best way of doing so. If we allow for exemptions to exist we may find ourselves in the situation where unscrupulous traders will try and pass new ivory off for that which is exempt.
The Secretary of State gave a promising response, but I will keep up the pressure until the law is changed and the UK is an international leader in the total ban of ivory products.