As Belgium goes for a ban, we call on the EU to close its ivory market

With Member State experts due to meet today (27 March) to discuss the future of the European Union‘s domestic ivory market, Belgium has added momentum to efforts to ban the trade across the bloc.

Last week, Belgium’s House of Representatives unanimously supported proposals to ban commercial trade in ivory (with strictly defined exemptions). The Federal Parliament will vote in early April and is expected to adopt the proposals.

This move would bring Belgium in line with EU countries such as the UK, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands, all of which have recently introduced ivory trade bans or restrictions.

Recognising the EU as “a hub of the illegal trade of endangered wildlife,” the Belgian Environment Minister, Marie Christine Marghem, publicly called for a total ban on the EU domestic ivory trade during meetings with the Kenyan Government earlier this month.

Yesterday (26 March), we and 13 other NGOs jointly called on the EU to close its ivory market.

Mary Rice, our Executive Director, said: “The EU is an important transit hub, consumer market and major exporter of ivory. Legalised ivory trade within and out of the EU legitimises ivory as a desirable product to trade and provides a cover for laundering illegal ivory.

“Legal markets, whether in the EU or Asia, fuel demand for poached ivory in Asia and undermine global efforts to close ivory markets.”

Although the international trade in ivory was prohibited in 1990, the EU still permits trade in ivory imported before this date. The results of a public consultation released by the EU Commission at the end of 2018 show that more than 90 per cent of the 90,000 respondents support an EU ivory trade ban.

Despite promising to take action on its ivory market since 2016, the EU has so far only called on Member States to end exports of raw ivory. It continues to permit trade between EU Member States, as well as exports of some worked ivory, including to Asia where the illegal ivory trade continues.

For ‘antique’ ivory acquired before 1947, the EU does not even require permits or evidence of legal acquisition. These loopholes are used to launder ivory from poached elephants into the legal trade.

The closure of domestic ivory markets is due to be discussed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Sri Lanka in May.