Britain: antique dealers want to reverse ivory trading ban

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Ivory Act under threat. Some ivory products traded by antique dealers

The Times reports that antique dealers want to reverse the law banning ivory trading 10 months after it was passed. The law is so new that it has not even taken effect yet. They’ve taken their case to the High Court and it will be heard this Wednesday. They say that the ban breaches their “fundamental rights and freedom” to enjoy personal property.

Ivory products in the UK.
Ivory Act under threat. Photo: SIMON DAWSON/REUTERS

John Stephenson of Stop Ivory said:

“To lose this law before it has even taken effect would be a tragedy for Africa’s elephants. The UK is one of the world’s leading exporters of antique ivory and sends more to China and Hong Kong than any other country.”

He, together with the heads of eight other conservation organisations have written to The Times newspaper to warn of the implications if the law is struck down.

“Any legal trade in ivory provides cover for illegal trade and fuels demand for perpetuating its perceived value in the eyes of consumers. Elephants are being killed at an unsustainable rate and the ivory trade needs to end. Is the UK about to abandon an international consensus which it helped to build?”

John Stephenson of Stop Ivory

The antique dealers and collectors claim that the Ivory Act is incompatible with EU law, which allows trade in pre-1947 “antique” ivory. And they say that the law infringes their human rights by not letting them sell or buy ivory.

However, the European Commission is considering new restrictions on ivory trade across Europe. These restrictions will be drawn in part from the UK’s Ivory Act.

These traders in ivory say that the act would result in “substantial economic damage” to the industry. However, ivory trading accounts for less than 1% of sales in many British auction houses.

Comment: I’m afraid that this dispute reflects so many other disputes regarding animal welfare which is inherently in conflict with business profits. The exploitation of animals generates vast business profits and once you restrict that exploitation you damage the profits of businesses. Many people are simply insensitive to the welfare of wildlife as they prioritise short-term financial gains over long-term benefits for the world in general. There has to be a better balance between generating income and protecting the planet. At the moment conservation is losing out hugely to big business, hence the quite rapid decline in population of many iconic wildlife species