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Antiques trade fails to stop ivory ban in UK High Court

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

We at DSWF and conservation groups across the UK and around the world are celebrating today after a group of antiques traders failed to overturn the UK Ivory Act, intended to save elephants and passed with overwhelming popular support and cross-party Parliamentary backing in 2018.
The Act, which has received Royal Assent but has not yet taken effect, will restrict the sale of ivory to, from, and within the UK.

A High Court Judge found in favour of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and against a lobby group of antiques traders, called the Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT), who had argued that the Ivory Act was in violation of European law and was an infringement of their human rights.

Mary Rice, CEO of the Environmental Investigation Agency, (EIA), said: “This is a victory for common sense and one which maintains the UK’s position as a global leader when it comes to fighting the illegal ivory trade.”

The EIA is part of a coalition of 11 leading conservation organisations which supported the Ivory Act, arguing that any legal trade in ivory provides cover for the illegal trade because it is difficult to distinguish between antique and newly carved ivory. 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. Moreover, the legal ivory trade fuels a continued demand for the commodity by perpetuating its perceived value in the eyes of consumers and making it socially acceptable.

The European Commission is currently considering new restrictions on ivory trade across Europe which are based in part on the UK Ivory Act and even uses similar language. Other countries, such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, have introduced, or are in the process of introducing, similar legislation also based on the Act.

While the antiques trade had claimed the UK Ivory Act will cause “substantial economic damage” to the industry, ivory accounts for less than one per cent of annual sales in many UK auction houses.

John Stephenson, CEO of Stop Ivorysaid “Challenges to the new legislation fly in the face of British public opinion, which increasingly puts the conservation of nature before profit. We hope that’s the end of the matter and that the government can get on with implementing the Act, without further distractions.”

The UK Ivory Act has the support of many African countries with significant elephant populations, which are calling for stricter controls on the sale of ivory abroad as they struggle to control poaching at home.

Thirteen African governments belonging to the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) signed a statement hailing the passing of the Act in 2018: “We believe the UK’s new law will … support and encourage enforcement efforts and initiatives to reduce ivory trafficking in Africa, and around the world.”

Approximately 55 African elephants are poached every day, an unsustainable rate of loss.

At DSWF we are delighted and relieved to hear this news. With one elephant shot every 20 minutes for their ivory, wild elephant populations can’t afford to be lost to poaching to feed the ivory trade.

We are proud to support our partners EIA and their incredibly important work to prevent illegal trade and protecting endangered species.

Please help us continue to fund their vital work by donating.

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