Two African elephants

What’s your verdict? The antiques trade appeals its failed bid to quash UK Ivory Act

Despite 85 per cent of the UK wanting to ban ivory trade, a small group of antiques dealers will have another day in court this month in a second bid to shoot down the UK Ivory Act.

On 3 February, in a major speech on international trade, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We are protecting elephants by introducing one of the strictest ivory bans in the world; and the EU meanwhile is still in the consultation state.”

The Ivory Act has been given Royal Assent but has yet to come into effect. It was passed with overwhelming popular support and cross-party Parliamentary backing in 2018 to restrict the sale of elephant ivory to, from and within the UK – one of the world’s leading exporters of antique ivory, particularly to illegal trade hotspots in Asia.

Protestors at last November’s Judicial Review hearing

Last November, a High Court judge presiding over a Judicial Review found in favour of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and against a group of antiques traders, called the Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT), which had argued the Ivory Act was contrary to EU law and infringed their human rights to sell ivory.

FACT appealed the decision and the case is now due to be heard before three judges at The Court of Appeal, at The Royal Courts of Justice, in The Strand, Holborn, London WC2A 2LL on 24 February 2020.

Mary Rice, our Executive Director, said: “It would be a tragedy for endangered elephants in Africa and Asia if the UK Ivory Act were to be cut down at this final hurdle, not to mention a slap in the face for the vast majority of British citizens who quite clearly put elephant welfare far above the right to make money off blood ivory.

“Our investigations have revealed time and again that parallel legal markets for ivory confuse consumers as to ivory’s acceptability as a commodity, stimulate new demand, provide a front behind which to launder poached ivory and ultimately drive the illegal ivory trade which has so devastated elephant populations.

“As one of the biggest traders in legal ivory, the UK must shoulder its share of responsibility for this and the UK Ivory Act, with its very narrow and limited exemptions, is an excellent step towards that.

“It would be a terrible injustice if the narrow financial interests of a handful of antiques dealers were put before a future for elephants and the will of the British people.”

EIA led a coalition of 11 conservation organisations in support of the Ivory Act from its inception and together with Action for Elephants and our other partners we plan to rally outside The Court of Appeal from 9.30am on 24 February to make some noise in support of the legislation – do please come and join us.